Dispelling years of anecdotes in travelogues, the popular press, and scholarly works, biologists from the University of Bristol argue that it is nearly impossible for elephants to become intoxicated from eating the fruit of the marula tree.
"Elephants display many behavioral characteristics viewed as positive traits in humans, often causing us to identify with them in anthropomorphic ways," write Steve Morris, David Humphreys, and Dan Reynolds in a forthcoming paper in Physiological and Biochemical Zoology. "The tipsy pachyderm [is] a view bolstered perhaps by a mutual desire for the fruits of the marula tree."
Based on reports of elephants accessing stores of wine or beer, the three-ton mammals clearly have a taste for alcohol. They also have a demonstrated fondness for marula fruit, gathering around trees when the fruit is in season. Fallen marula fruit may naturally ferment to an ethanol content of approximately 3 percent after three or four days.
Suzanne Wu | EurekAlert!
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