The authors of the research looked at more than two million stuffed animals at the London Natural History Museum, the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC, the Field Museum in Chicago, the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the French National Museum of Natural History.
The study discovered that 60 percent of birds represented in these museums are males, while male mammals outnumber females 52 percent to 48.
Besides, the museums are home to the so-called reference animals which are used by the researchers to compare newly discovered species to. These animals are only 27 percent female for birds and only 39 percent female for mammals, the study says.
The researchers claim this disparity is a problem for science, as it is more difficult to classify females into the correct species, when there are not many to refer to. The study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal, calls for the situation to be changed.
The surveyed animals were collected between 1751 and 2018, but the authors note that the situation has not improved over time.
“Interestingly, we see no improvement. Even recent collections are biased,” Dr. Natalie Cooper, the study author says, according to the Mail.
According to Cooper, the culprit of the problem lies in the collectors’ desire to get their hands on a specimen with the most impressive features.
“There is a tendency for the people collecting to want to get the largest grizzly bear or the animal with the most impressive horns,” Cooper says.
Or, maybe, it is because shooting males, who are essentially expendable, is less harmful to the ecosystem than shooting females – which is regularly forbidden under certain circumstances. It is unclear whether Cooper reviewed this possibility.