Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Why Don't We Hear More About Tree Shrews? And Sozzled Raccoons?

"Tupaia tana"
Brookfield Zoo

"A Case of Mistaken Identity

"They're not squirrels
"Tree shrews are small mammals that live part of their lives in trees in the tropical forests of southeast Asia. Their legs are short, with padded feet and long claws for gripping branches. They have a long, pointy snout, and a great sense of smell. Tree shrews have small, elongated bodies and big bushy tails---just like squirrels. With their similarities, you might think that trees shrews and squirrels are closely related, but they aren't.

"They aren't really shrews, either
"Tree shrews got their name from English sailors exploring southeast Asia, way back in 1780. To the sailors, these long-nosed creatures reminded them of shrews back home. ..."

And, according to the Brookfield Zoo, they aren't primates either.

Yes, some sorts of tree shrews live (mostly) in trees. And, back in the 1920s somebody said they were primates. I ran into the 'tree shrews are primates' assertion while researching this post. (Tree Shrews as Primates)

I'm inclined to think that Brookfield Zoo is on the right track: Tree shrews aren't squirrels; they're not shrews; they're not primates either. They're tree shrews - a separate group.

Works for me.

They're a bit on the small side: roughly eight and a half inches plus six and a half inches of tail; weighing a bit under eight ounces.

And, they can hold their liquor better than we can, weight-for-weight:

"The shrew that can drink 'nine glasses of wine' and not get drunk"
Science & Tech, Mail Online (July 29, 2008)

"It weighs no more than a golf ball and could curl up in the palm of your hand.

"But the pen-tailed tree shrew can drink most humans under the table.

"The tiny creature has a formidable capacity for alcohol, showing no signs of drunkenness despite spending its nights gorging on alcohol-rich nectar...."

The pen-tailed tree shrew looks like something you might see after a six-pack or three - but it's a very real critter that lives in part of Malaysia.

The Mail Online article explains the utility of that particular tree shrew's relative immunity to alcohol:

"...Each flower bud is a miniature brewery, containing a yeast that turns the nectar into a frothy beverage with an alcohol content of up to 3.8 per cent - similar to many beers.

The researchers, writing in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, say animals just like the shrew were our direct ancestors - so the human taste for alcohol could have its roots deep in evolution.

Really deep, if Brookfield Zoo (and a whole lot of other serious researchers) are right: Looks like whoever wrote the Mail Online article was of the 'tree shrews are primates' persuasion.

Actually, quite a few mammals like alcohol. Beer, anyway.

A case in point:

"Raccoon Drinking Beer"

paulrichter74, YouTube (June 13, 2009)
video, 0:41

"Taken on our Holidays at Rondeau Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada "

1 comment:

marion said...

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