New research suggests evolution might favor 'survival of the laziest'

August 21, 2018, University of Kansas
Anadara aequalitas was included in new large-data study of fossil and extant bivalves and gastropods in the Atlantic Ocean that suggests laziness might be a fruitful strategy for survival of individuals, species and even communities of species. Credit: Neogene Atlas of Ancient Life / University of Kansas

If you've got an unemployed, 30-year-old adult child still living in the basement, fear not.

A new large-data study of fossil and extant bivalves and gastropods in the Atlantic Ocean suggests laziness might be a fruitful strategy for survival of individuals, and even communities of species. The results have just been published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B by a research team based at the University of Kansas.

Looking at a period of roughly 5 million years from the mid-Pliocene to the present, the researchers analyzed 299 species' metabolic rates—or, the amount of energy the organisms need to live their daily lives—and found higher metabolic rates were a reliable predictor of likelihood.

"We wondered, 'Could you look at the probability of extinction of a species based on energy uptake by an organism?'" said Luke Strotz, postdoctoral researcher at KU's Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum and 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."

Strotz' co-authors were KU's Julien Kimmig, collection manager at the Biodiversity Institute, and Bruce Lieberman, professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, as well as Erin Saupe of Oxford University.

"Maybe in the long term the best evolutionary strategy for animals is to be lassitudinous and sluggish—the lower the metabolic rate, the more likely the species you belong to will survive," Lieberman said. "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.'"

The researchers said their work could have important implications for forecasting which species may be likely to vanish in the near term in the face of impending climate change.

"In a sense, we're looking at a potential predictor of extinction probability," Strotz said. "At the species level, metabolic rate isn't the be-all, end-all of extinction—there are a lot of factors at play. But these results say that the metabolic rate of an organism is a component of extinction likelihood. With a higher metabolic rate, a species is more likely to go extinct. So, it's another tool in the toolbox. This will increase our understanding of the mechanisms that drive extinction and help us to better determine the likelihood of a species going extinct."

Arcinella cornuta was included in a new large-data study of fossil and extant bivalves and gastropods in the Atlantic Ocean that suggests laziness might be a fruitful strategy for survival of individuals, species and even communities of species. Credit: Neogene Atlas of Ancient Life / University of Kansas

The team found that a higher metabolic rate was a better indicator of extinction probability, especially when the species were confined to a smaller habitat, and less so when a species was spread over a wide geographic area of the ocean.

"We find the broadly distributed species don't show the same relationship between extinction and metabolic rate as species with a narrow distribution," Strotz said. "Range size is an important component of extinction likelihood, and narrowly distributed species seem far more likely to go extinct. If you're narrowly distributed and have a , your probability of extinction is very high at that point."

The team also found that cumulative metabolic rates for communities of species remained stable, even as individual species appear and disappear within the community.

"We find if you look at overall communities, and all the species that make up those communities, the average metabolic rate for the community tends to remain unchanged over time," Strotz said. "There seems to be stasis in communities at the energetic level. 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. This was a surprise, as you'd expect the community level metabolic rate to change as time goes by. Instead, the mean energy uptake remains the same over millions of years for these bivalves and gastropods, despite numerous extinctions."

Strotz said he used mollusks to study the phenomenon of metabolism's contribution to because of ample available data about living and extinct species.

"You need very large data sets with a lot of species and occurrences," he said. "Many of these bivalves and gastropod species are still alive, so a lot of the data we needed to do this work can come from what we know about living bivalve and gastropod physiology. The reason we picked the Western Atlantic as a study area is because we have excellent large datasets recording distribution of both fossil and living mollusks from this region. I used a lot of fossil material from collections around the U.S."

According to the research team, a follow-up to this line of inquiry will be to establish the extent to which has an influence on the extinction rates of other kinds 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? 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?"

Explore further: Biodiversity loss raises risk of 'extinction cascades'

More information: Metabolic rates, climate and macroevolution: A case study using Neogene molluscs, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, rspb.royalsocietypublishing.or … .1098/rspb.2018.1292

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22 comments

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nilbud
3.8 / 5 (4) Aug 21, 2018
Bow before your master!
Bookperson
1 / 5 (11) Aug 21, 2018
And this evolutionary "research" is likely paid for by taxpayers. Our "scientists" are always looking for something new and unique to publish.
cgsperling
4.8 / 5 (6) Aug 21, 2018
If you can expend energy at a low rate, and still procreate, You WIN ! That's a no-brainer.
Cusco
3.9 / 5 (7) Aug 21, 2018
"If you've got an unemployed, 30-year-old adult child still living in the basement, fear not."

As long as you're a marine mollusk with a limited distribution. Otherwise, not so much.
Nicku
not rated yet Aug 21, 2018
You only need to work at breeding more from four or more wives or from inbreeding.
Tyrant
1 / 5 (3) Aug 22, 2018
Thirty year old single mom with three kids living on welfare..........Wins!
antialias_physorg
3.4 / 5 (5) Aug 22, 2018
and found higher metabolic rates were a reliable predictor of extinction likelihood.

Well, evolution does favor the "good enough" approach over the "optimal" one.

If you can expend energy at a low rate, and still procreate, You WIN ! That's a no-brainer.

That's pretty much where the "30-year-old adult child still living in the basement" approach fails, though.
dumb1
1.3 / 5 (13) Aug 22, 2018
Looks like they're rejecting the original statements, that in order to survive, needed to be smarter, stronger, etc... now it's dumber, lazier, weaker.

Face facts, God made everything, and God sent Jesus Christ to die for others sins. The rest is history.
MarsBars
5 / 5 (6) Aug 22, 2018
New research suggests evolution might favor 'survival of the laziest'

That may be true for bivalves and gastropods, but less so for human species - according to other new research reported in the "Laziness led to extinction of Homo erectus" phys.org news article featured on August 10th (http://phys.org/n...s.html).

antialias_physorg
4.1 / 5 (12) Aug 22, 2018
Looks like they're rejecting the original statements, that in order to survive, needed to be smarter, stronger, etc

You just need to be smarter/stronger than the next guy...not 'optimally smart/strong'.

In the end they are arguing that needing the minimum amount of energy to get by is what determines fitness - as anything else is wasteful and will lead to extinction if that amount of energy is not available.

For humans this only holds in regions that are prone to famines.

Face facts, God made everything, and God sent Jesus Christ to die for others sins.

You really live up to your name, don't you?
salf
5 / 5 (2) Aug 22, 2018
Lazy, low energy maintenance requirements--two very different things.
dumb1
1.4 / 5 (9) Aug 22, 2018
"In the end they are arguing that needing the minimum amount of energy to get by is what determines fitness - as anything else is wasteful and will lead to extinction if that amount of energy is not available."

Elephants? Hippos? Whales? Sharks? Dinosaurs? That's minimum energy to get by? There are also instances of reverse evolution and stagnant evolution. In the end, so many conflicting theories, becomes science myth. Same for the biggest supernatural event of all history, the big bang, saying nothing did that and never again.... is myth. It's all God's creation, he's the most intelligent and powerful being of all eternity. The most loving too in sending Jesus to save people.
NoreaGodel
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 23, 2018
I do believe that Charles Darwin and Cain and his brother Abel would have to disagree with this idea. The Struggle for human survival, at least, has been anything but *lazy*. Our chubby Couch potatoes and unemployed basement dwellers can only exist on this earth because a great deal of the humans who have come before them were absolutely unstoppable and so insanely productive they have made our modern era what it is. So this self righteous human laziness is possible and our exodus from the oppressive labors to till the soil and toil the land, seems like liberation, even..... virtuous. Moms basement and all.
NoreaGodel
2.3 / 5 (3) Aug 23, 2018
On second thought this would be a great study use to weaken an enemy. If we somehow proved it does apply to humans, have our scientists share it excitedly with scientific establishment in the enemy nation, do so at least 6 months prior to us invading them. It was basically debunked in the Art of War but science knows better now.
blazh femur
5 / 5 (4) Aug 23, 2018
Further research is necessary, but frankly we're too lazy to do it.
agmartin
5 / 5 (2) Aug 23, 2018
Another interpretation of their data is that species that must expend more energy to survive (i.e. have a harder time finding food) are more likely to go extinct.

But that would be too obvious to be published.
691Boat
5 / 5 (6) Aug 23, 2018
And this evolutionary "research" is likely paid for by taxpayers. Our "scientists" are always looking for something new and unique to publish.


@BookPerson:
Those dang scientists and their constant looking for new things. How dare they! Maybe they should instead spend time inventing an incandescent light bulb instead so they don't waste their time on new and unique things. That is a great idea. /sarc
Whart1984
Aug 24, 2018
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
antialias_physorg
3.9 / 5 (7) Aug 24, 2018
Those dang scientists and their constant looking for new things. How dare they!

Yup. they should study their bible and learn to obey their uneducated betters!

Another interpretation of their data is that species that must expend more energy to survive (i.e. have a harder time finding food) are more likely to go extinct.

It's a bit more complex than that. The study essentially examines whether it's better to take a chance and hope that the environment changes favorably so that you have a leg-up on everyone else or whether waiting fro change to happen and then adapt in the smallest possible way will lead to lasting success.

So its no tjust about current behaviour but also investmet in potential future gains.
humy
5 / 5 (4) Aug 24, 2018
the big bang, saying nothing did that
dumb1

No. As anyone who actually fully understood the modern theory would tell you, that isn't what the big bang theory says at all. Regardless of whether time itself began, always something 'came from' something; no problem.
In the end, so many conflicting theories

That is how science works; competing theories based on evidence and the evidence eventually narrows them down and usually to just one. An example of that is the proven fact of relativity as opposed to the old now disproven aether theory that once competed with relativity.

So many conflicting religions with none of them being based on the evidence. Religion is myth. Science leads to facts.
Phyllis Harmonic
5 / 5 (3) Aug 24, 2018
Face facts, God made everything, and God sent Jesus Christ to die for others sins. The rest is history.


There is nothing factual about these mythical characters or their behaviors. You created an account on a science forum just to proselytize for your own aggrandizement. How virtuous of you. Oh, and by the way, your answer for everything isn't an answer at all, it's an abdication of reason.
SinterKlaus
not rated yet Aug 25, 2018
There may be correlation but there also may be a cart/horse factor. What if the species that have become extinct were at that time under resource pressure that caused the individuals with higher metabolic rates to become successful in the short term even while extinction progressed? This may have skewed the results.

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