‘Survival of the sluggish’ suggests evolution favours slackers

‘Survival of the sluggish’ suggests evolution favours slackers

"The probable explanation is that things that were more sluggish or lazy had lower energy or food requirements and thus could make do with little when times were bad", Bruce Lieberman, a fellow study author and a professor of ecology and biology, tells The Guardian.

The research was conducted by a team from the University of Kansas and suggests the phrase "survival of the fittest" should actually be changed to "survival of the sluggish".

At the point when researchers followed the destinies of mid-Pliocene species in the course of the last 5 million years, they discovered species with higher metabolic rates will probably have vanished.

Dr Luke Strotz, also from the University of Kansas, said: "In a sense, we're looking at a potential predictor of extinction probability".

According to new research, lazier species with a lower metabolic rate are more likely to survive than their counterparts who use more energy.

Published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the study offers another method to predict the likelihood of extinction for species who will be impacted by climate change. "At the species level, metabolic rate isn't the be-all, end-all of extinction-there are a lot of factors at play". The results were quite surprising, to say the least: they found that the ones with the lower rate of metabolism tended to stick around longer and avoid extinction.

Partially motivated by self-interest-after all, the term survival of the fittest exists for a reason-and partially by the scientific impulse to expand upon the study's findings, one would naturally ask if similar predictions can be made about the human species.

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"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". They looked at the metabolic rates of 299 different species.

Dr Strotz said: "You need very large data sets with a lot of species and occurrences". "Range size is an important component of extinction likelihood, and narrowly distributed species seem far more likely to go extinct. If these results were to scale up to the level of the species for these organisms, there is some possibility that our results extend to other biological groups".

"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.

"We see these results as generalizable to other groups, at least within the marine realm", Strotz said.

Molluscs that had gone the way of the dinosaurs and disappeared had higher metabolic rates than their still flourishing cousins.

The sea slugs, scallops, sea snails, and mussels which burned the most energy in their day-to-day lives were more prone to early extinction than their less energetic cousins, particularly those living in small ocean habitats, the researchers found.

Researchers focused on mollusks due to the ample data available on such species, both living and extinct, from the Atlantic Ocean. "Can it apply on land?"

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