Evolution might favor ‘survival of the laziest,’ study says

Avatar By Tyler MacDonald | 11 months ago

A new study of fossil and extant gastropods and bivalves from the Atlantic Ocean suggests that individual, species, and communities of species can use laziness as a survival strategy.

The study examined 299 species from approximately 5 million years through the mid-Pliocene to the present. In particular, it examined the metabolic rates of the species and found that higher metabolic rates were predictive of the likelihood of extinction.

“We wondered, ‘Could you look at the probability of extinction of a species based on energy uptake by an organism?'” said Luke Strotz, lead author of the paper. “We found a difference for mollusk species that have gone extinct over the past 5 million years and ones that are still around today. Those that have gone extinct tend to have higher metabolic rates than those that are still living. Those that have lower energy maintenance requirements seem more likely to survive than those organisms with higher metabolic rates.”

Continued research will determine just how much metabolic rate influences the extinction rates of other species of animals.

“We see these results as generalizable to other groups, at least within the marine realm,” Strotz said. “Some of the next steps are to expand it out to other clades, to see if the result is consistent with some things we know about other groups.”

“There is a question as to whether this is just a mollusk phenomenon?” he continued. “There’s some justification, given the size of this data set, and the long amount of time it covers, that it’s generalizable. But you need to look—can it apply to vertebrates? Can it apply on land?”

The findings were published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.