Furry Forest Critters Get Boozed, Bombed, Hammered, Inebriated…

By Andrew Moseman | July 29, 2008 5:03 pm

tree shrewIt’s a tough life as a science writer: Often the stories coming down the line demand totally straight-faced reporting. And then one day brings sweet relief—scientists find beer-swilling tree shrews living in the rain forests of Malaysia.

As such, it was no surprise that nearly every major science news source jumped on this one. DISCOVER’s 80beats picked up the details of the story, so we thought we’d rate some publication’s efforts at wisecracking one-liners.

The grades:


The New York Times: “It’s Always Happy Hour for Several Species in Malaysian Rain Forest.”

Despite a goofy illustration, the Old Gray Lady is pretty straight-faced about all this, simply saying, “The human species now has drinking partners.” However, they issue the important reminder that tree shrews were the forerunners of primates, so perhaps we’ve evolved with alcohol all along. We bestow a grade of B, for getting us off the guilt hook.

ScienceNOW: “Now That’s a Party Animal.”

MSNBC: “Tiny Tree Shrew Can Drink You Under the Table.”

BBC: “Tree-Shrew is Heavyweight Boozer.”

The Telegraph: “Shrew That Drinks 3.8% Palm Beer Every Night, But Never Gets Drunk.”

All aboard the”under the table” train. These four key on the fact that shrews don’t just love their 3.8 percent alcohol fermented palm nectar, it’s all they ever have to drink, and their style non-stop boozing would do in even the most dedicated human drinker.

C‘s all around, except for MSNBC, which declares that the shrews’ could out-imbibe even “the most annoying drunken fratboys.” Perhaps this comes from too many years at a state school, but that sounds to me like a challenge. Points off for not testing this scientifically: C-minus.

Wired: “Malaysian Shrew Survives on Booze.”

Speaking of fraternities, Wired suggests relocating shrews to frat houses should humans destroy the Malaysian rain forests. A grade of A for coming up with both jokes and solutions simultaneously.

The Times (UK): “Shrew Identified as World’s Hardest-Drinking Creature.”

They remind us that adjusted for weight, the shrew’s alcohol consumption is the equivalent of a human drinking nine whole glasses of wine. B-minus for reminding us of our limitations, and that challenging the shrews to a drinking contest perhaps isn’t such a good idea after all.

National Geographic: “Boozing Mammal Drinks ‘Beer’ Every Night, Study Finds.”

They write, “What’s more, the rat-size animal never gets drunk during its nonstop jungle jamborees.” Normally we wouldn’t endorse the use of the word “jamboree” outside of references to the Boy Scouts of America. However, DISCOVER loves alliteration—or should that be “DISCOVER decidedly digs alliteration”—so we’ll give it the seal of approval. B-plus.

The Sydney Morning Herald: “Pint-Sized Mammal with Huge Appetite for Alcohol.”

These Aussies are the winners, solely because they use the word “tipple.” A tipple doesn’t sound so bad right now. A-plus. And yes, we know we’re easy to please.

Image: Annette Zitzmann

MORE ABOUT: unusual organisms
  • http://www.sobriety.org John D

    That is absolutely hilarious. I thought my brother could drink but these little guys take the cake at 9 glasses a sitting ;) (that National Geographic remark is pretty funny too “Normally we wouldn’t endorse the use of the word “jamboree”)

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