Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. Earth Science News .

Subscribe free to our newsletters via your

Drunken Elephants And The Marula Fruit Myth

No lightweight.
Bristol, UK (SPX) Dec 06, 2005
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.

However, elephants have shown a clear preference for marula fruit still on the tree. Disregarding a large fruit pit, the metabolism of alcohol over time, and the unlikeliness of total ethanol absorption, a three-ton elephant gorging itself quickly on nothing but marula fruit would still be hard-pressed to ingest enough ethanol to reach a blood alcohol content indicative of inebriation.

"Assuming all other model factors are in favour of inebriation, the intoxication would minimally require that the elephant avoids drinking water, consumes a diet of only marula fruit at a rate of at least 400 percent normal maximum food intake, and with a mean alcohol content of at least 3 percent," write the authors.

Instead, the authors posit that an intoxicant other than alcohol may be responsible for "tipsy" behavior. Elephants also eat the bark of the marula tree, which is home to a beetle pupae traditionally used to poison arrow tips.

Morris, Steve, David Humphreys, and Dan Reynolds. "Myth, marula and elephant: An assessment of voluntary ethanol intoxication of the African elephant (Loxodonta africana) following feeding on the fruit of the marula tree (Sclerocarya birrea) " Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 78:6.

Related Links
Search TerraDaily
Subscribe To TerraDaily Express

Chinese Ivory Demand Threatens Central Africian Elephants
by Karen Calabria
Nairobi (AFP) Nov 30, 2005
A taste for ivory among members of China's exploding middle class poses a serious threat to elephants in central Africa where poaching is on the rise amid a surge in demand, experts said Wednesday.

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.