Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Drunken Elephants: The Marula Fruit Myth

Date:
December 5, 2005
Source:
University of Chicago Press Journals
Summary:
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. 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.

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.

###

Since 1928, Physiological and Biochemical Zoology has presented original, current research in environmental, adaptational, and comparative physiology and biochemistry.

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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Chicago Press Journals. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Chicago Press Journals. "Drunken Elephants: The Marula Fruit Myth." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 December 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/12/051205235555.htm>.
University of Chicago Press Journals. (2005, December 5). Drunken Elephants: The Marula Fruit Myth. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/12/051205235555.htm
University of Chicago Press Journals. "Drunken Elephants: The Marula Fruit Myth." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/12/051205235555.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The Wawona Packing Company has issued a voluntary recall on the stone fruit it distributes due to a possible Listeria outbreak. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

AP (July 22, 2014) An 80-year-old agave plant, which is blooming for the first and only time at a University of Michigan conservatory, will die when it's done (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The 83 new genetic markers could open dozens of new avenues for schizophrenia treatment research. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
CDC Head Concerned About a Post-Antibiotic Era

CDC Head Concerned About a Post-Antibiotic Era

AP (July 22, 2014) Sounding alarms about the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, CDC Director Tom Frieden warned Tuesday if the global community does not confront the problem soon, the world will be living in a devastating post-antibiotic era. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins