You are here: Home » Current Affairs » News » National
Business Standard

Forget the fittest, this study suggests evolution might favour the laziest

The study could have important implications for forecasting which species may be likely to vanish in the near term in the face of impending climate change

Climate Change  |  Human Evolution

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

gene, evolution
Representative Image

Laziness may be a fruitful evolutionary strategy for the survival of individuals and species, a large scale study of fossils from the last five million years from the Atlantic Ocean has found.

The researchers analysed metabolic rates -- or the amount of energy the organisms need to live their daily lives -- of about 299 mollusk species, and found higher metabolic rates were a reliable predictor of extinction 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 University of Kansas in the US.

"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," Strotz said.

"Those that have lower energy maintenance requirements seem more likely to survive than those organisms with higher metabolic rates," he said.

"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," said Bruce Lieberman, from University of Kansas.

"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'," said Lieberman.

The study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B, could have important implications for forecasting which species may be likely to vanish in the near term in the face of impending

"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," he said.

"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," he added.

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

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

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

Dear Reader,

Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.
We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

Digital Editor

First Published: Wed, August 22 2018. 16:10 IST