Assessing the aesthetic attractivity of European butterflies: a web-based survey protocol

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Elia van Tongeren, Ginevra Sistri, Vincenzo Zingaro, Alessandro Cini, Leonardo Dapporto, Mariagrazia Portera


Aesthetic attractivity stands as an underestimated yet fundamental feature of species in conservation biology, significantly driving disproportionate protection efforts towards charismatic species. Despite the evidence, few attempts sought to precisely quantify the impact of aesthetic attractivity in defining priority of species for conservation actions (e.g. inclusion in International Union for Conservation of Nature red lists and protection lists). This study protocol describes the setting of an online test (available from April 2022 to April 2023 at designed to i) quantify the aesthetic attractivity to humans of the 496 European butterfly species and ii) identify which features (both in the perceived animal and in the perceiver) influence the aesthetic attractivity of a given butterfly species. The test is divided in 5 sections (personal data, ranking, single morphological features, emotional engagement, dispositional variables) aimed at profiling the relation each participant has with the species examined. In the long-term, evaluating butterflies' aesthetic attractivity could facilitate the critical assessment of current conservation strategies, such as the process of selection of flag and umbrella species by research institutions, environmental associations and Non Governative Organizations. This is expected to provide the much-needed evidence to set up unbiased biodiversity conservation strategies and counteract the selective anthropogenic pressure which favours the extinction of unattractive species, being no or less protected compared to charismatic species.



Biodiversity, Entomology, Life Sciences, Zoology


biodiversity, aesthetics, butterflies, zoology, conservation strategies, environmental education, visual perception, environmental humanities, aesthetics, butterflies, zoology, conservation strategies, environmental education, visual perception, environmental humanities


Published: 2022-11-03 10:20

Last Updated: 2022-11-04 00:55

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CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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Conflict of interest statement:
The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Data and Code Availability Statement:
Not applicable