Ever heard of the pen-tailed tree shrew? No? Well you should know this creature, because it’s awesome. This little mammal that lives in the Malaysian rain forest feeds itself on a regular basis with alcoholic floral nectar from the brittain palm. The percentage goes up to 3,8 percent. This may not seem like a lot, but scientists calculated that the amount they consume compared to humans would mean they are drunk one third of their lives.
The pen-tailed tree shrew however seems fine after feasting on this ‘flower beer’. Their secret lays in their metabolism. Their bodies convert alcohol into ethyl glucoronide (EtG), that ends up in their fur. This can also be seen in the bodies of heavy alcoholics. Although humans convert only a little alcohol to EtG. Researcher Frank Wiens of the University of Bayreuth (Germany) states: “As the nectar is an essential part of the shrews’ diet, their taste for alcohol may help us understand the evolutionary forces that drive humans to drink.”
His colleague Robert Dudley of the University of California, Berkeley agrees with Wiens. “It’s a beautiful example of the natural biology of alcohol consumption, which people have totally neglected in alcohol research.” Dudley suggested already in 1999 that our taste for alcohol may be an “evolutionary hangover” from our fruit-eating primate ancestors, who developed a taste for fermented fruit.
This theory is backed up by research after the favorite flower of the pe-tailed tree shrew. Its structure promotes fermentation, which attracts mammalian pollinators. So it’s almost certain that alcohol (and our taste for it) plays a very important role in nature. In other words: Mother Nature is a boozer.