Survival of the ‘Sluggish’: Slow Metabolism Linked to Lower Risk of Extinction

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If you’re among those that are not pulling their weight, it’s time to rejoice. Well, it has nothing to do with humanity, but somehow other species pulled it through and postponed their extinction by just being slower!

After studying about 300 forms of mollusk which lived and died in the Atlantic 5 million years ago, researchers discovered that high metabolism caused some species to go extinct.

The sea creatures – snails, slugs, mussels and scallops use a lot of energy every day, causing them to die out. Meanwhile, the lazy cousins survived harsh conditions.

The authors of the study, which was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found that there is a connection between the animals’ metabolism and how much time their species lived on Earth.

‘Survival of the Sluggish’

The team’s leader and professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Kansas University, Bruce Lieberman, says that:

“The lower the metabolic rate, the more likely the species you belong to will survive. 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.’”

The research team analyzed 299 species of gastropods from the Pliocene epoch and calculated each species’ resting metabolic rates. Compared to the species we find today, 178 species (from the ones studied) went extinct. Lieberman says “the probable explanation is that things that were more sluggish or lazy had lower energy or food requirements and thus could make do with little when times were bad.”

The study is significant because it could help conservationists predict which species are more likely to go extinct as climate change affects food production. Lieberman adds that they will continue their study and find out if there is a connection between the extinction rate and metabolism in other animals.

As for humans, Lieberman concludes that laziness doesn’t help us survive:

“This result doesn’t necessarily mean that lazy people are the fittest, because alas sometimes those lazy people are the ones that consume the most resources. But in a nutshell our work indicates that being sluggish can make you more likely to survive. So, here’s to a nap, after we solve our planet’s environmental crisis.”

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Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.


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