Saturday, September 7, 2013

Biogeography in popular culture - Katy Perry's Roar & Transitions Optical TVC

Popular culture usually has an interesting (and often unscientific) depiction of biodiversity. Most of the time, producers tend to take the kitchen-sink approach, where more species or the more iconic species, the better.

Unfortunately, accuracy in biogeography suffers in most cases. Biological communities and species typically vary across geographic space (e.g., continents). The media often depict organisms belonging to more than one biologically distinct geographical regions in the same space. I wonder how this has an impact in shaping people's perception of nature.

This post developed from a rather short twitter post and is meant to take a fun, non-critical look at two memorable examples, one old and one current:

Transitions Optical TVC

This eyewear lens ad depicts a day's work by wildlife cinematographer where a tiger (Panthera tigris) from Asia, scarlet macaws (Ara macao) from South America, an orangutan (Pongo sp.) from Southeast Asia, and a Raggiana bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea raggiana) from New Guinea are seen. Such an assemblage is impossible in the wild in a single forest.

If 4 species of animals of at least 3 different biographic regions are a stretch, the next one stretches reality even further.

Katy Perry - Roar

The forest in Katy Perry's new music video for Roar has a minimum of 12 species of animals from at least 4 continents.

Image: Katy Perry / Columbia Records / Twitter
Asia: 1. Tiger (Panthera tigris), 2. great hornbill (Buceros bicornis), 3. Alexandrine or rose-ringed parakeet (Psittacula sp.).

Africa: 4. African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana), 5. baboon (Papio sp.).

Australia: 6. Eclectus parrot (Eclectus roratus), 

South America: 7. white-headed capuchin (Cebus capucinus), 8. blue and gold macaw (Ara ararauna ) & hybrid (Ara ararauna x Ara macao), 9. Toco toucan (Ramphastos toco).

Unknown: 10. crocodilian, 11. tarantula, 12. firefly.

This is really quite an impressive list of animals from at least 4 different ecoregions. A lot of it must have depended on what captive animals were available for the production.

And that is just for the animals. Botanists can surely come up with a list of the motley assemblage of plants as well.

Update: Inkfish also noticed and wrote about the video.