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Scientists Say Evolution Is Partly ‘Survival of the Laziest,’ So Let’s Just Stay on the Couch Today

A new study is a victory for the congenitally chill

Ignore any article that says sitting too much makes you fatter, sadder and dumber. I mean, it does all those things, I’m sure — but new research has revealed the advantage, from an evolutionary standpoint, of doing as little as possible.

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University of Kansas researchers just published a data study in the science journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B that looks at the fossil records of nearly 300 mollusk species from 5 million years ago through the present day, with an eye toward the invertebrates’ basal metabolic rate, or BMR. This is what we laypeople would refer to, broadly, as a metabolism — “the number of calories required to keep your body functioning at rest.”

What they found was that bivalves and gastropods with lower BMRs or metabolisms were more likely to survive over time than those that required more energy uptake. “Those that have gone extinct tend to have higher metabolic rates than those that are still living,” Luke Strotz, the paper’s lead author, says in an interview with The upshot? Loafing around could be a viable evolutionary strategy, because it means you don’t need to consume quite as much. “Instead of ‘survival of the fittest,’” says Bruce Lieberman, a co-author on the study, “maybe a better metaphor for the history of life is ‘survival of the laziest’ or at least ‘survival of the sluggish.’”

Yes, there are many caveats to these findings, and we don’t know whether they apply to land vertebrates, let alone humans, but…


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I can’t promise your significant other is gonna buy it when, the next time they tell you to get off the couch for once, you tell them: “Shhhh, I’m evolving.” Again, that’s really not how this works. And the whole “low metabolism” thing, ideal in terms of impact on the planet, would put a cramp in any plan to spend your lounging hours demolishing bag after bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Then there’s that whole bit where you have to procreate to keep your lazy genes in circulation.

Despite all that, this feels like a victory for the congenitally chill. Those people running around constantly, traveling the world, trying to live life to the fullest — they’re just gonna fall of a mountain or die of some exotic disease, in which case they won’t contribute to the continuing story of our species, will they? Checkmate.

Also, I’m pretty sure this explains why sloths are still around.

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“Metabolic rate,” the paper notes, could “represent an important metric for predicting future extinction patterns, with changes in global climate potentially affecting the lifespan of individuals, ultimately leading to the extinction of the species they are contained within.” I’m choosing to irresponsibly and inaccurately interpret this statement as a suggestion that human beings need to slow way the heck down, quit moving so much, and stop working altogether if we want any hope of getting through the mass extinction event currently underway. I think if everyone lies perfectly motionless for the next few decades, we might have a decent shot. Pretend you’re a mollusk. They seem to know what they’re doing.