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Scientists suspect that evolution favors the lazy



If you sit on the Internet and read this story instead of doing something more important, that you know you should, I have good news. New research suggests that some animals might benefit from being as lazy as possible, and evolution could reward these individuals by allowing them to share their genes and conserve their species.

The publication was published in Proceedings of the Royal Company B, drawing an incredibly interesting link between the metabolic rates of various species and their likelihood of getting out. As it turns out, being a busy body is a good way to be dead.

Scientists involved in the research gathered a wealth of data on nearly 300 different species that lived between five million years ago and today. They then graphed the metabolic demands of the different species, showing how active the animals must be in order to continue living. They found that more active animals tend to be more likely to be extinct.

"We asked ourselves, 'Could you look at the likelihood of extinction of a species from the energy intake of an organism?' Luke Strotz, a researcher from the University of Kansas and lead author of the new work, explains. "We've found a difference for mollusc species that have been extinct in the last 5 million years and are still around today, and those that are extinct tend to have higher metabolic rates than those who are still alive."

This makes sense from a purely mathematical point of view. Species that are similar but have different metabolic rates will likely have different chances of survival. The creature, which uses less energy every day, has a better chance of continuing depending on the environment. "Those who have lower energy conservation requirements seem to be more likely to survive than organisms with higher metabolic rates," says Strotz.

It's an interesting result, but obviously not for all species. A recent study of ancient human ancestors found that a particularly lazy group of Homo erectus was condemned to death after taking shortcuts in tooling and searching for new areas of life. It seems that laziness is only a blessing when the environment prefers it. A "least-effort" approach could cost a species dearly if their sluggish ways make it impossible for them to adapt to a rapidly changing world.


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