“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’”, says US ecologist Professor Bruce Lieberman, who co-led the University of Kansas team in a recent study.
Researchers have identified laziness as an effective evolutionary strategy ensuring the survival of species after studying ocean creatures like sea slugs and shellfish. The idea of “survival of the slacker” has emerged after studying the survival of creatures living on the Atlantic seafloor for the past 5 million years.
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’
Scientists have conducted an extensive study of the energy needs of 299 species of extinct and living bivalves and gastropods. It has been found that of these many species, those that have managed to escape extinction are those with minimal energy requirements, being the “low maintenance” species. These are species that show a low activity level and take a slow-paced approach to living life (flatteringly, a bit like me).
Molluscs were chosen for the study due to the huge amounts of data that is available of their bivalve and gastropod species, including both living and extinct. It was also found that other species belonging to the Mollusc phylum with a higher metabolic rate had gone extinct. This further strengthens the finding that metabolic rate is a factor that plays a part in determining the extinction of species. Dr Luke Strotz, also from the University of Kansas, has said that the results of these findings will help to understand the mechanisms that drive extinction and better determine which species are likely to go extinct. This knowledge and understanding would be particularly useful at a time when the dangers of climate change and the sensitivity of our planet is becoming increasingly apparent.
The results of these findings will help to understand the mechanisms that drive extinction and better determine which species are likely to go extinct
The authors have suggested that the general principles derived from the study of lowly molluscs can be applied to higher animals as well. However, Dr Strotz has, while accepting that the sample size and the duration of the study justify this suggestion, added that there is a degree of uncertainty over whether this can be applied to other species, such as land animals and vertebrates.
The team is now planning to conduct follow-up research to find out if natural selection through a “survival of the laziest” approach works with other animals as well. Until then, there is a while to go before we discover whether mother nature truly and universally values laziness. A rather grim statement to make in the end but regardless of the outcome of further research student life is unlikely to alter much, as much as you may like the idea of laziness being viewed positively.