BEIJING, May 15 (Xinhua) — A new study of alcohol-related genes has found that animals such as elephants, narwhals and guinea pigs may be easily drunk, according tomedia reports. During the evolution of mammals, the ADH7 gene independently produced 10 different failures, affecting a range of organisms, which, if they inherited a gene with abnormal functions, may make it difficult for the body to metabolize ethanol, which may be more likely to accumulate in animal blood if the safe gene of ADH7 fails.
Among the animals studied, narwhals who ate meat and guinea pigs ate leaves were less likely to eat large amounts of sugary fruit and nectar that produce ethanol. Elephants love fruit. The question of whether elephants really get drunk after eating Marulago (a close relative of mangoes) has been debated for a long time. And this study puts the issue on the table again.
As early as 1875, there were strange descriptions of elephants eating ripe fruit. Later, an experiment was conducted and alcohol was mixed in the water. It turns out that the elephant is happy to drink the water, and when it drinks, the body shakes and looks more aggressive.
But in 2006, Steve Morris, a physiologist at the University of Bristol in the UK, and colleagues questioned the notion that elephants would get drunk as “pure fiction”. Their calculations show that even if African elephants really love to eat the fermented Marula fruit on the ground, they can’t eat as much as they can get drunk. But this calculation is based on the human physiological system. The new study suggests that a malfunction in the ADH7 gene in elephants may mean they are less tolerant of alcohol.
It was not just elephants, but also tree slugs, that inspired the study. The creature, which looks like a pointed-nosed squirrel, is so resistant to alcohol that the alcohol concentration that makes humans faint is a small dish for them.
After analyzing genetic information from 79 mammals, the researchers found that ADH7 had a functional failure at 10 different sites in the mammalian family tree. These low-ethanol-tolerant branches include many very different organisms, including elephants, dragonflies, rhinos, octagon rats, beavers and cattle.
The opposite is true for humans and African non-human primates. Because of the genetic variation, the ADH7 gene in their bodies breaks down ethanol about 40 times more efficiently than the average mammal. Lemurs, often fed with fruit and nectar, have also evolved this skill independently. However, the tree’s saplings do not have such highly efficient genes, so their staggering amount of alcohol remains a mystery.
However, the discovery of the ADH7 gene in African elephants has sparked a debate about elephant drunkenness. Elephants are so slow to remove ethanol from their bodies, which may suggest that a little alcohol content in a thoroughly fermented fruit is indeed enough to intoxicate them and change their behavior.
Phyllis Lee, a behavioral ecologist, has been observing elephants in Kenya’s Ampaselli National Park since 1982. “When I was young, I tried to make beer from corn, and elephants loved it. She didn’t make a clear statement in the debate over whether the elephant would be drunk, but she believes the elephant’s “huge liver” must have some detoxification. “I’ve never seen an elephant get drunk, ” she says, “but that kind of home-brewed beer doesn’t count much for humans.” “