LAWRENCE, Kan. (CBS Local) – Scientists used to believe evolution was all about the “survival of the fittest.” A new study is suggesting that the key to survival may actually be laziness.
The study, which looked at five million years worth of fossils and other marine species, examined the metabolic rates of nearly 300 organisms on Earth. Researchers from the University of Kansas say a species with a historically higher metabolism actually went extinct more often.
“We found a difference for mollusk species that have gone extinct over the past 5 million years and ones that are still around today,” postdoctoral researcher Luke Strotz said in a statement. “Those that have lower energy maintenance requirements seem more likely to survive than those organisms with higher metabolic rates.”
Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Bruce Lieberman added that their findings point to a new philosophy when it comes to staying alive: less is more.
“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.
The Kansas research team believes their study, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, may help predict which species will not make it as the planet’s climate changes.
“In a sense, we’re looking at a potential predictor of extinction probability,” Strotz explained. “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.”
The scientists are now theorizing if their findings will also apply to other species, including mammals.