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, species 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 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 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.” University of Kansas, “New research suggests evolution might favor ‘survival of the laziest’” at Phys.org
They have a point, though we likely haven’t heard the last of it. Like we’ve often said before, not enough attention is paid to extinction (when and where otherwise successful life strategies cease to work out) as a help in understanding the history of life. The paper, here, is paywalled.
See also: Academic labels media reports calling Homo erectus lazy as “moronic” Brooks doesn’t discuss “technologically conservative” but the mindset is best summed up as “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Again, for people living on the edge of survival, that is a sound strategy. They can’t afford to take risks not forced on them by nature. Even within historically documented time, many people groups have persisted with the same methods for thousands of years for that very reason.
Researchers: Homo erectus died out because he was lazy and conservative. How do we know homo erectus is extinct (as a separate group)? Well, they certainly wouldn’t have said this stuff about any living group.