Central American Bats Know How to Hold Their Liquor

1 February 2010

Friends do let Artibeus fly drunk. Lovingly adapted from a photo by Flickr user J-Fi.

PLoS ONE appears to be trying to corner the market on Bats Gone Wild research. Last year there was this gem which introduced us to the, ahem, catholic sexual proclivities of Asian fruit bats. Today everyone’s favorite open-access web journal brings a sort of thematic squeakuel (yeah, you heard me):

Orbach DN, Veselka N, Dzal Y, Lazure L, Fenton MB, 2010 Drinking and Flying: Does Alcohol Consumption Affect the Flight and Echolocation Performance of Phyllostomid Bats? PLoS ONE 5(2): e8993. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0008993

Fruit and nectar eating animals occasionally ingest fermented food. Light-weight Waxwings get drunk and interfere with air traffic.  Tree shrews tough it out like George W. at a Skull and Bones initiation.  Which leaves an obvious question:  what about bats? Pansies or Panzers?

To address this nagging conundrum, researchers dosed several species of fruit-eating Central American bats with enough booze (actually an ethanol and sugar solution–you know, like Smirnoff Ice) to bring them to a Blood Alcohol Concentration of 0.11.  For comparision, driving with a BAC over 0.08 will land you in jail in most states.  Given their small size, some bats got scheißed, with several individuals testing above 0.30 BAC – which, for normal humans, is black-out, piss-your-pants, you’re-going-to-die-if-your-frat-bros-don’t-call-an-ambulance territory.

Nevertheless, compared to control bats that were fed only sugar water, the soused bats showed no greater difficulty navigating an obstacle course.  Likewise, the bats’ echolocation did not appear to be affected by the libations.  Presumably, they also had no trouble reciting the alphabet backwards.

Prior studies of another fruit-eating bat species, Rousettus aegyptiacus, native to Africa and parts of Asia, did find that alcohol intake reduced their ability to navigate similar obstacle courses.  This suggests that alcohol tolerance might vary by species or region–the authors suggest that fruit ferments more quickly in the American tropics requiring the bats living there to better hold their liquor.  Insert obligatory racist joke about the Irish here.

Incidentally, there are a number of bat-themed cocktails floating around on the internet out there.  This one seems especially disgusting:


– 33 cl energy drink (red bull,battery,gatorade…)
– 4 cl gin
– 10 ice cubes

Mix all. Serve cold.

And if you can still fly straight after one of those – well, more power to you.

4 Responses to “Central American Bats Know How to Hold Their Liquor”

  1. […] Posts Central American Bats Know How to Hold Their Liquorx-ray visionLaser BirdSexual Inter CoursePermanent InkWhen Animal Memes Attack!Would you rather have […]

    • Neil Says:

      Thanks for the suggestion Bora – I’ve been avoiding ResearchBlogging.org due to an excess of laziness and a paucity of earnestness on my part. Lately I’ve been more keen to jump on bandwagons so maybe I’ll take you up on this.

  2. […] flying capability and precision in bats, recieved some additional coverage this week, including at Microecos, Calgary Herald, Denim and Tweed and National […]

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