You know how everyone always seems to have stories about “this one guy” who can mix his liquor and still not get drunk?
Next time anyone brings it up, tell them about the Malaysian pen tailed shrew. Not much to look at, but this little critter will drink most frat boys under the table. About the size of a small rat, the shrew consumes fermented palm nectar from the Bertam palm. Every night. For at least two hours straight.
And this isn’t some weak alco-pop mixer; the concentration of the alcohol produced is recorded at 3.8%. Despite its size, the shrew drinks the equivalent of 12 glasses of wine every night.
Can you beat that?
For a long time, we assumed that drinking and drug taking were strictly human vices. Turns out that animals have been getting wasted for years. It even gets more interesting when you learn the creative ways they do this.
We’ve found animals that just love to get blitzed. Do you think you can keep up?
10. Big Cat Catnip
Among Amazonian tribes, the vine of the Banisteriopsis caapi is used to prepare Ayahuasca, which is consumed as a hallucinogen. But jaguars have been observed licking and chewing the leaves too.
Its effect on them is similar to the effect that catnip has on domestic cats. Jaguars that nibble on B. caapi seem to become mellow, almost playful and exhibit kittenish behavior. The harmala alkaloids in the vine inhibit the activity of monoamine oxidase, which leads to altered serotonin levels. Symptoms of Ayahuasca use in the big cats include a stumbling walk, dilated pupils, a slowed heart rate, rapid breathing and drooling.
They usually sleep off the episode until the next time.
9. Horses on Crazyweed
Spotted locoweed, crazyweed, loco (you can guess where this is going) is the name given to any plant that induces the production of swainsonine in grazing animals. Common culprits are the Oxytropis, Astragalus and Swainsona, found in in North America and Australia. When elk, deer, horses and cattle eat them, they become very tipsy, start to walk funny and bump into things.
Experts have described the effect on animals as similar to a mind-altering drug. But over-ingestion causes excess production of swainsonine, which will kill the animal within eight weeks. Horses and cows can quickly get addicted and show withdrawal symptoms, like depression and weight loss, when taken off the drug.
The use of locoweed can develop into a group addiction. If one member of the herd eats it, the others usually join in.
8. High Times in the Rockies
Out in the Canadian Rockies, high in the mountains, grows a species of yellow-green lichen with psychoactive properties. The plant is also quite rare, taking almost a century to develop. Since it’s all the way in the mountains, there is only one animal who has access to it: the wild bighorn sheep.
The sheep will go out of their way and risk their lives to nibble at this lichen and satisfy their craving. They’ll balance on the narrowest ledges and hop across chasms; they’ve even been known to abandon the herd just to find this plant.
7. Wacky Wallabies
In 2009, just like in the M. Night Shyamalan movie, opium farmers began to find crop circles in their fields. Investigation found that wallabies, kangaroo-like marsupials, had gotten into the crop. Every time they they ate their fill and got wasted, all they could do was hop around in circles before passing out.
Farmers also found that sheep and deer that ate poppies were “acting weird”. Of course, they just chewed the base material for heroin! This had been going on for years, with the farmers reporting that the wallabies stopped eating when they were high enough.
6. Playing with Poison
Getting trashed isn’t just for land based animals. Birds are known to indulge quite a bit, too. Australia has its “Drunken Parrot Season”, where birds just seem to fall out of the sky. On the ground, they appear uncoordinated, keep falling over and eventually pass out. And like a true alcoholic, they cower in shame while they recover from their hangover. Scientists blame the behavior on their ingestion of alcohol from fermenting fruit.
But other birds don’t wait for the fermentation of fruit to get their high; they go right to the source.
In humans, Jimsonweed (Datura stramonium) is both an analgesic and a powerful hallucinogen. Its effects include anxiety, slurred speech, delirium, dizziness, paranoia, and nausea, lasting for at least 24 hours, making it one of the most toxic plants known to man.
In spite of that, Jimsonweed is a preferred source of nectar for hummingbirds. They experience the same effects on a a much smaller scale, and make sure they ingest just enough to get a buzz and not get killed.
Talk about living on the edge.
5. Drunken Monkey Business
On the island of St. Kitts in the Caribbean, there is a raging alcoholic population. It’s not the locals or the tourists either, but the local ververt monkey population.
Some observers are quick to condemn the resorts and tourists for enabling the monkeys’ addiction to alcohol. However, it should be noted that the monkeys have been getting high for around 300 years, since they were brought to the island. They initially developed a taste for alcohol by eating fermented fruits on the forest floor.
The presence of the resort and tourists is simply unfortunate. Watching these monkeys swoop down and cart away half-drunk martinis, sodas, anything in a cup, is something to be seen. The way they swig every last drop is reminiscent of alcoholic behavior in humans.
Their behavior led to a controversial experiment where scientists tried to isolate an alcohol gene. Research into the behavior shows that over time, 5% of them develop into raging alcoholics.
4. Slaves to an Addiction
Insects are not left out of the drug-taking game. However, you may be surprised to find that the drug fiends of the insect world is none other than the tiny ant. Pseudomyrmex ferrugineus ants can’t get enough of the sap of Vachellia cornigera, the acacia tree.
The tree’s sugary syrup is so addictive that the ants become hooked. Researchers initially thought it was only consumed for nutrition, but have since discovered that it’s also addictive. They found that the nectar the tree gave off also contained enzymes that kept the ant from being able to digest any other sugars, making them hooked to the acacia.
To defend their ‘dealer’, these ants have been known to go on the offensive, attacking other colonies and bigger animals.
3. Pass the Puffer fish
Don’t let their cute looks fool you, dolphins are some of the worst deviants in the marine world. They like to get their kicks in many ways, from masturbation to vicious killing of other sea animal to getting wasted.
And they use one of the deadliest toxins known to man to do this.
The pufferfish produces tetrodotoxin in its muscles, liver, intestines and skin, to prevent being eaten by predators. In some cultures, puffer soup and fugu chiri are delicacies, but diners run the risk of getting poisoned if the meal isn’t well prepared. The toxin causes dizziness, vomiting, whole body numbness, elevated heart rate and lowered blood pressure, culminating in a coma which can prove fatal.
In animals, the toxins don’t have such a devastating effect, allowing marine animals to use it to get a buzz. A BBC program observed bottlenose dolphins in the wild agitating a puffer fish till it released a cloud of poison. Basking in the resulting “poison cloud” seemed to put them in temporary trance-like state where they end up floating on their backs, with eyes closed.
2. Toad Licking
Humans like to push boundaries when it comes to experimenting with drugs. Some go as far as ingesting lichens and mushrooms; but one of the weirdest ways is toad licking.
To defend itself from predators, the cane toad secretes 5-methoxy-N, N-dimethyltryptamine and bufotenin through its skin. When licked, it induces a powerful hallucination. It seems like pets have picked up on its trippy qualities.
Dogs and cats have been found agitating these toads so that it produces its bufotoxin. The pets then lick just enough of it to get in a mind-altered state. Vets report that pets ‘on toad’ waver from seeming ‘out of it’ to being deliriously hyperactive.
As the the effects wear off quickly, many go back to lick the toads. This has led to addiction and in some cases, painful deaths, when too much toxin is consumed.
1. Narcotic Showers
Some animals use others as preening tools.
When some birds shed their feathers, they visit their anthills and let the ants crawl all over them. Others pick the ants, crush and smear the remains all over their feathers. To defend themselves, the ants give off formic acid which kills mites on the bird.
The Madagascan black lemur cleans itself the same way, but seems to enjoy itself much more. They pick up toxic giant African millipedes and bite them lightly so that the millipede squirts toxins in self-defense.
The lemur then rubs the toxins all over its fur and face. While the poison repels mites and insects, it also makes the lemur high by inhibiting monoamine oxidase production. But the secretions also contain a high level of cyanide, meaning with each hit, the monkeys are inching closer to death.