Everyone has a love of beauty—scientists are no exception.
In May 2021, a study published in "Nature Plants" (Nature Plants) found that those beautiful flowers have more chances to become the research objects chosen by researchers. In other words, appearance not only affects finding a partner, but also affects whether one can become a subject of research.
In fact, not only appearance, but also many factors will cause researchers to be unable to treat all research objects equally. The sense of existence of different species is really different, and the well-known species have a higher chance of being studied. Everyone has probably heard of the koala (Phascolarctos cinereus), but how many of you know the less popular but more endangered Queensland hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus krefftii)? There are more than 5,000 papers on koalas that can be searched on Google Scholar, and 616 related pictures on Wikimedia Commons; while papers on Queensland wool-nosed wombats are less than There are 1,000 articles, and the pictures are even more pitiful-only 3. The reality is that some species are being studied by everyone, while others are less interested.
Every species has the significance and value of research, but "eccentricity" is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, sometimes, key breakthroughs are more effective than rain and dew. As the old saying goes, "use money wisely", and only by using limited scientific research resources in the right place can a better balance between investment and return be achieved.
The "destined child" among species
- model organisms
In the field of biological research, some species will be used by biologists to study and reveal the general laws of life science. These species selected as research objects are used by biologists in different fields research, known as model organisms.
Model organisms are generally representative species with short growth cycles, simple genomes, and widespread distribution. If you have paid attention to the field of biology, I believe you have heard more or less of model species such as Mus musculus, zebrafish, Caenorhabditis elegans and Arabidopsis.
The small white mice often used in modern experiments, that is, experimental mice, are bred from Mus musculus. Mus musculus has produced many strains with different traits but a single genetic background through inbreeding, so that experimental variables can be controlled and results can be repeated. The number of experimental mice consumed in the world every year is so large that it is difficult to count. These neighbors, who are usually not liked by humans, have made great contributions to many fields such as physiological research, disease research, and drug development that are closely related to humans.
The supermodel among species—flagship species
In addition to the preference of researchers when choosing research objects, animal and plant conservation also have preferences when choosing protection objects.
When considering the degree of protection for different organisms, in addition to considering the degree of endangerment, attention, ecological value, economic value and other aspects will also be considered.
Due to reasons such as culture, appearance, popularity, etc., some species have special appeal and attraction to awaken people's awareness of ecological protection, and can promote people's attention to species protection. They are representative species of regional ecological maintenance, and these species are called Called the flagship species (flagship species). One of the most famous flagship species is the adorable giant panda, a national treasure whose image is also used in the logo of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). In addition to giant pandas, Amur tigers, crested ibis, Hainan gibbons, Asian elephants and other species in different ecosystems are also flagship species.
One of the key links in the protection of wild animals is the protection of their habitats. Therefore, in addition to attracting the attention of the public and making it easier to obtain protection funds and measures, flagship species also have an indirect function——to protect the ecosystem in which they live. Other species in it play an indirect protective role. In recent years, my country has developed a number of national parks on a pilot basis. Among the first pilot national parks, two are themed on flagship species: the Giant Panda National Park and the Northeast Tiger and Leopard National Park.
In the Giant Panda National Park, there are more than 20 kinds of national first-level key protected wild animals and more than 90 kinds of national second-level key protected wild animals. The red panda (Ailurus fulgens), which is classified as endangered (EN) by The IUCN Red List, likes to eat bamboo just like the giant panda, and is no less cute than the giant panda. However, due to various reasons, the attention is far less than other flagship species, and the protection level is only two. Fortunately, its distribution area overlaps with that of the giant panda. With the establishment of the Giant Panda National Park, it is believed that the future of the red panda will be bright. In addition to red pandas, other precious but unpopular species such as Chinese merganser, black stork, and unifoliate distributed in the Giant Panda National Park will all grow safely under the protection of the giant panda's reputation.
There are also edible species.
Whether it is a model species or a flagship species, it feels that there is a long distance from us ordinary people. But there is a class of species that researchers prefer that is closely related to each of us: livestock, poultry, food crops and other species that are related to our basic needs.
The reason why we can have enough milk to drink, food to eat, and cotton clothes to wear today is largely due to people’s preference for them: a lot of manpower and material resources have been spent on researching them, so that their output and quality are far from Ultra-wild ancestors. For example, through artificial breeding, we can taste watermelons without seeds. With the development of breeding research represented by hybrid rice technology and the promotion of related high-yield varieties, the national average rice yield per mu has increased from 773 jin in 1990 to 939 jin in 2020, further ensuring the country's food security.
In fact, whether it is good-looking or popular, when we make a choice, eccentricity already exists. Whether it is good or bad, it is because of the existence of choice that there will be infinite possible results, and the world will be rich and colorful because of this.