The modern biodiversity crisis urges scientists and stakeholders to study and protect biodiversity. However, human perception of nature is strongly biased and species perceived as beautiful get more attention than less attractive species. This bias could have tremendous consequences as it affect our perception of nature and thus could potentially feedback negatively on our willing to preserve biodiversity and the functioning of ecosystems. This issue particularly concerns coral reefs as they host among the most colorful fish in the world. They are key ecosystems on Earth due to their high biodiversity, and attract millions of tourists each year. But coral reefs fish communities are not only composed of beautiful species, and a lack of attention on less attractive species might alter our ability to conserve this endangered ecosystem.
Here we present evidence, within a set of 116 species and a panel of 8000 observers, that the less attractive coral reef fish have a much higher functional richness than the more attractive species. These results are independent of sociological background characteristics, except for underwater experience that had a few effect on fish attractiveness. Our results highlights to what extent our aesthetic preferences are disconnected to the functioning of ecological system, and irrelevant decision-making tool for conservation. There is an urgent need to increase, by any mean, the attention of both scientists and general public on non-attractive species in order to better appreciate and protect the species that really support functional diversity in endangered ecosystems.