The Loh Down On Science

Boozy Bats

Scientists explain how fruit bats living on fermenting, alcohol-accumulating fruits stay sober.

Flying literally high. An activity loved by BATS?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science,

and on the secret lives of fruit bats.

Ripening fruit accumulates alcohol. So how do fruit bats consume intoxicants all night without going, well, batty?

To find out, researchers from Israel's Ben-Gurion University served captive Egyptian fruit bats one of three different cocktails. The cocktails consisted of a shot of ethanol in sugar water made from either glucose, sucrose, or fructose.

Then they measured the bats' blood alcohol level with breathalyzers. How? By holding their snouts to a funnel connected to a gas chromatograph. Think reverse beer-bong. The breath test was repeated every twenty minutes for two hours.

Ninety minutes after the test, glucose and sucrose drinkers were still soused. But fructose-drunk bats had reduced their alcohol content by fifty percent. Turns out, the fructose itself helped bats sober up.

But, it turns out, the bats dug their buzz. When researchers later gave the colony free access to the same three spiked drinks, they preferred the SUCROSE--which kept them high THAT much longer.

Did the scientists responsibly CONCLUDE the experiment with little espressos and tiny cold showers? We can only hope.


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