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New research from the University of Kansas suggests evolution might favor 'survival of the laziest'

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.


Photo Credit: University of Kansas

“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.”

Luke Strotz, KU’s Biodiversity Institute and Natural History Museum

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

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