Pen-tailed treeshrew : A drunkard who can handle alcohol.

By Joseph Wolf (1820 – 1899) - Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 1848, Mamm. pl. 2, Public Domain, Link

The Pen-tailed Tree shrews(Ptilocercus lowii) are the only members of their family. They are also misnamed. They are of the order Scandentia (meaning the climbing ones) and are evolutionarily closer to Colugos than to true shrews.

They are slender creatures with a pronounced nose and a long tail with a feather-like plume at the end of it. The  body is between 4-6 inches (11-15 cm) and their tail can measure up to 4 inches to 5 inches (11cm). They weigh a teeny 40 gms. They are of a medium brown color with a tan underbelly. If one thinks about it: perfect camouflage for all those who dwell in trees. They are found in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.

Why are they so interesting?

Apart from being a bit of a second cousin to every other mammal in the evolutionary sense, the creatures are special because they can drink a lot of alcohol. They can consume 12 glasses of human equivalent in alcohol from the fermented nectar of several plants , especially the Bertram Palm and they don’t get drunk. More than that, they also don’t suffer from any side effects of this sort of diet. And they do this every night! YIKES!

Other animals get drunk too, but not this much! And none of them can tolerate alcohol very well, as this video shows you.

Scientists have yet to figure out how they manage this ponderous feat. However, as the Bertram plant is not easy to get at by other animals, this looks like a great symbiotic relationship that has developed over time. Perhaps as a result of this relationship, the animals have a thriving population and are not threatened even with extensive human encroachment.

About mammal 56 Articles
I blog about mammals and all the interesting and fun-filled facts about them will be welcome additions to this blog.

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