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60secscience%20example%20article - Chronic intake of...

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Chronic intake of fermented floral nectar by wild treeshrews Frank Wiens* †‡ , Annette Zitzmann* § , Marc-Andre ´ Lachance , Michel Yegles , Fritz Pragst**, Friedrich M. Wurst †† , Dietrich von Holst*, Saw Leng Guan ‡‡ , and Rainer Spanagel *Tierphysiologie, Universita ¨t Bayreuth, 95440 Bayreuth, Germany; Psychopharmakologie, Zentralinstitut fu ¨ r Seelische Gesundheit, 68159 Mannheim, Germany; § Zoologisches Institut, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universita ¨t, 60054 Frankfurt am Main, Germany; Department of Biology, University of Western Ontario, London, ON, Canada N6A 5B7; Laboratoire National de Sante ´, Toxicologie, Universite ´ du Luxembourg, 1511 Luxemburg; **Toxikologische Chemie, Institut fu ¨ r Rechtsmedizin, 14195 Berlin, Germany; †† Universita ¨re Psychiatrische Kliniken, 4025 Basel, Switzerland; and ‡‡ Forest Research Institute, 52109 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Edited by May R. Berenbaum, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, Urbana, IL, and approved May 21, 2008 (received for review February 20, 2008) For humans alcohol consumption often has devastating conse- quences. Wild mammals may also be behaviorally and physiolog- ically challenged by alcohol in their food. Here, we provide a detailed account of chronic alcohol intake by mammals as part of a coevolved relationship with a plant. We discovered that seven mammalian species in a West Malaysian rainforest consume alco- holic nectar daily from flower buds of the bertam palm ( Eugeissona tristis ), which they pollinate. The 3.8% maximum alcohol concen- tration (mean: 0.6%; median: 0.5%) that we recorded is among the highest ever reported in a natural food. Nectar high in alcohol is facilitated by specialized flower buds that harbor a fermenting yeast community, including several species new to science. Pen- tailed treeshrews ( Ptilocercus lowii ) frequently consume alcohol doses from the inflorescences that would intoxicate humans. Yet, the flower-visiting mammals showed no signs of intoxication. Analysis of an alcohol metabolite (ethyl glucuronide) in their hair yielded concentrations higher than those in humans with similarly high alcohol intake. The pentailed treeshrew is considered a living model for extinct mammals representing the stock from which all extinct and living treeshrews and primates radiated. Therefore, we hypothesize that moderate to high alcohol intake was present early on in the evolution of these closely related lineages. It is yet unclear to what extent treeshrews benefit from ingested alcohol per se and how they mitigate the risk of continuous high blood alcohol concentrations. alcohol self-administration bertam palm nectar feeding pollination H uman alcohol (ethanol) use and abuse can be partly linked to genetically inheritable traits (1). It is still unclear whether and how these traits have been shaped by natural selection directly connected to alcohol intake (2). Three principal scenar- ios are possible: one hypothesis stems from the observation that many psychoactive substances, including alcohol, exert negative
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