Laziness is an effective survival skill, evolutionary biologists find

  • Laziness is an effective survival skill, evolutionary biologists find

Laziness is an effective survival skill, evolutionary biologists find

That's a big part of the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Many species go through a boom, then a bust - but the truth is some species can fend off extinction for longer than others.

When you find out that elephants need to eat between 200-600 pounds of food a day, or that hummingbirds have to consume half their body weight every 24 hours, you might wonder how these animals have survived for thousands of years. The findings suggest that lazier, sluggish creatures have a slight edge over animals with a higher metabolic rate. Those that have gone extinct tend to have higher metabolic rates than those that are still living.

When the researchers assessed resting metabolic rates for each species, they observed that metabolic rate contrasted distinctly for 178 species that had perished with those that continue to exist today.

Upon investigation, they found that the species that have managed to survive all these years are mostly "low maintenance" kinds that do not requires a lot of energy.

"Instead of "survival of the fittest", maybe a better metaphor for the history of life is "survival of the laziest", or at least "survival of the sluggish".

This time, science sides with couch potatoes: research has found that some lazy species outlived their more enterprising counterparts in the fight for survival. S. 2015. The Digital Atlas of Ancient Life: delivering information on paleontology and biogeography via the web. "At the species level, metabolic rate isn't the be-all, end-all of extinction-there are a lot of factors at play".

Details about the study appeared in a paper, titled "Metabolic rates, climate and macroevolution: a case study using Neogene molluscs", which was published yesterday in the Proceedings of the Royal Society journal. A high metabolic rate means higher consumption of energy. Metabolic rate is less of a risk factor for species with a wide distribution across different habitats and ecosystems.

One of the most interesting findings was that the cumulative metabolic rate for communities of species remained stable.

Strotz, Lieberman, and their co-authors Julien Kimmig and Erin Saupe are all aware that metabolic rates are not the only driver behind a species dying out.

"In terms of energy uptake, new species develop-or the abundance of those still around increases-to take up the slack, as other species go extinct".

The researchers explain that the metabolic rate on average remains unchanged for all the species that make up a community.

The reason why gastropods (such as sea snails and sea slugs) and bivalves (such as mussels and scallops) were considered for the study is the sheer magnitude of data sets available, the authors said.

"In a sense, we're looking at a potential predictor of extinction probability", 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".

Before you decide to trade your morning run for Netflix and a sofa, though, consider that the study applies in the marine realm - for now at least.