Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

BOOZING IS OLDER THAN MANKIND

29.07.2008
CHRONIC ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION DISCOVERED IN WILD MAMMALS

A wild mammal closely resembling the earliest primates is drinking palm beer on a daily basis since maybe millions of years. Nevertheless, this Malaysian treeshrew is never drunk.

This suggests a beneficial effect, and sheds a whole new light on the evolution of human alcoholism. In the renowned scientific journal PNAS an international team led by German biologists Frank Wiens and Annette Zitzmann from the University of Bayreuth explains the details of the first recorded chronic alcohol intake in the wild.

A wild mammal closely resembling the earliest primates is drinking palm beer on a daily basis since maybe millions of years. Nevertheless, this Malaysian treeshrew is never drunk. This suggests a beneficial effect, and sheds a whole new light on the evolution of human alcoholism. In the renowned scientific journal PNAS (publication in PNAS online Early Edition scheduled for July 28), an international team led by German biologists Frank Wiens and Annette Zitzmann from the University of Bayreuth explains the details of the first recorded chronic alcohol intake in the wild.

... more about:
»Consumption »effect »pentailed »primate »treeshrew

Alcohol use and abuse can no longer be blamed on the inventors of brewing of about 9,000 years ago. So far, the current theories on alcoholism have stated that mankind and its ancestors were either used to take no alcohol at all or maybe only low doses via fruits - before the onset of beer brewing. As brewing is such a recent event on the evolutionary time scale, we were not able to develop an adequate defence against the adverse effects of alcohol and the partly hereditary addiction. Mankind is suffering from an evolutionary hangover, as they say.

Contrary to this belief, chronic high consumption of alcohol already occurred early on in primate evolution according to an international team of scientists from Germany, Canada, Luxemburg, Switzerland, and Malaysia. First author Frank Wiens from the University of Bayreuth and the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim specializes in evolutionary physiology: 'Alcohol consuming treeshrews are not real shrews. In fact, they belong to the primates' closest living relatives and are ecologically and behaviourally comparable to their extinct ancestors that lived more than 55 million years ago. Studying these fascinating creatures is an unexpected golden opportunity to learn about the causes and consequences of real-life drinking.'

Neither tipsy nor tame, the wild pentailed treeshrew Ptilocercus lowii from the West-Malaysian rainforest spends its nights looking for and licking fermented nectar of the bertam palm. 'This palm is brewing its own beer with the help of a team of yeast species, several of them new to science,' explains Wiens. The highest alcohol percentage the scientists could measure in the nectar was an impressive 3.8 %. 'It reaches among the highest alcohol contents ever reported in natural food.' The palm tree keeps its nectar beer flowing from specialised smelly flower buds for a month and a half before the pollen is ripe, probably to keep a guaranteed clientele of potential pollinators visiting.

In contrast to most plants the bertam palm flowers almost year-round. The alcohol consumption of treeshrews and their drinking companions - six other mammal species are also "regulars" - is therefore chronic. Chronic indeed, because this drinking habit of the pentailed treeshrew could already have been established over 55 million years ago.

As drunkenness is extremely dangerous for small mammals with plenty of lurking predators around, drinking to intoxication does not make sense. Still, with hair sample analysis for ethyl glucuronide, an indicator for chronic alcohol consumption, the team showed that the pentailed treeshrew takes in alcohol at a rate dangerous to other mammals. Treeshrews are very hard to see or catch, but video surveillance at palm sites and spying on several radio-collared individuals showed that they drank nectar for more than two hours each night - more time than they used for any other food source.

Although their size is in between that of a mouse and a rat and they weigh a mere 47 grams, they did not show any motion coordination problems or other signs of being drunk. Compared to human standards, pentailed treeshrews would be drunk once in every three nights. The treeshrews might break down the ingested alcohol in an unusually efficient manner.

That the threeshrews are not drunk does not mean that they are not affected by the alcohol in a low dose. What is more, Wiens believes that there are actually positive psychological effects of the treeshrews' alcohol consumption: 'The trait of alcohol consumption is actively maintained during evolution, so the overall effect must be beneficial. Future research has to prove if this is true and may explain past and current human drinking habits.'

Jürgen Abel | idw
Further information:
http://www.uni-bayreuth.de
http://www.uni-bayreuth.de/departments/tphys/wiens/wiens.html

Further reports about: Consumption effect pentailed primate treeshrew

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht New risk factors for anxiety disorders
24.02.2017 | Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg

nachricht Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers
24.02.2017 | Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>