Researchers based out of the University of Kansas found that laziness could be an important evolutionary trait, according to a new study in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. This new finding comes from an extensive analysis on bivalves and gastropods in the Atlantic Ocean that showed laziness could be important for both individual organisms and whole populations.
Researchers analyzed a 5 million year period from the mid-Pliocene to modern day. That allowed them to look at the metabolic rates of 299 species, which then showed higher metabolic rates could be used to predict extinction.
“We wondered, ‘Could you look at the probability of extinction of a species based on energy uptake by an organism?'” said lead author Luke Strotz, a researcher at the University of Kansas, according to Phys.org. “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.”
Across the board, it seemed that higher metabolic rates indicated extinction probability, especially for a species confined to a smaller habitat. Though researchers cannot fully explain that trend, it does suggest that lower metabolic rates give species a better chance to survive.
That is important because it could significantly impact future biological research. For instance, scientists could use metabolic trends to predict what species may disappear in the coming years. Though there are many factors in play when it comes to extinction rates, better understanding the process is always helpful and will likely be put to use sooner rather than later.
“In much the same as a company with minimal overheads is more able to weather out an economic downturn, (if) a species needs less energy to live, it is more likely to survive periods when there is decreased food availability,” Danny Longman, a biological anthropologist at Cambridge University, told CNN. “In fact, it has recently been demonstrated that the energy expenditure of humans and other primates is remarkably low compared with other placental mammals, and that this may be linked to our long lifespan.”