Drunk Flies and Stoned Dolphins

Drunk Flies and Stoned Dolphins: A Trip through the World of Animal Intoxication
© 2021 One R. Pagan
320 pages

Drunk Flies and Stoned Dolphins promises readers amusing stories of animal intoxication, but delivers instead a serious but enjoyable look at animal and human pharmacognosy and presents a case for why psychoactive drugs exist in nature to begin with. Pagan opens by reviewing studies and observations which prove that animals from insects on up make use of substances found in nature (through fungi and plants), sometimes to treat themselves and sometimes to protect their nests and young from parasites: nicotine, for instance, is consumed by bees to destroy internal parasites, but birds also use substances with nicotine in them to make their nests less attractive to insects. From here, Pagan considers the question of why psychoactive substances exist in nature to begin with, and the answer lies in plant behavior. Although we tend to dismiss plants as not having behavior, playing the passive background role in our nature scenes, the stage for animals to show off their own mobility – Pagan briefly addresses that misconception before making a cause for psychoactives as active plant defense. Substances that distract, disorient, or otherwise infeeble predators (predators like insects, deer, or any other plant-chowers) are a powerful weapon in plantkind’s toolbox, but different substances have varying effects on different classes of lifeforms – and some can be addictive to the point of the consumers’ destruction: Pagan includes one observation of goats that, being hooked onto chewing a certain kind of lichen, destroyed their teeth and made themselves unable to eat properly. The plant-defense option doesn’t explain all drug-like substances, but it’s a promising start, and Pagan mentions other ideas when they’re relevant, like the connection between alcohol proclivity and the ability to find ripe fruit. It’s not all serious argument, though: Pagan does weave in anecdotes about squirrels on meth, and octupi and elephants on LSD.   Drunk Flies proves as entertaining as its name promises.

About smellincoffee

Citizen, librarian, reader with a boundless wonder for the world and a curiosity about all the beings inside it.
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7 Responses to Drunk Flies and Stoned Dolphins

  1. Cyberkitten says:

    It does seem to be the case that as soon as something develops a Central Nervous System it wants to get drunk or stoned. I wonder how well a defence like that would stand up in court? [lol]

    • We’re not the only one to use substances for crutches, either. One study indicated that monkeys lower in their group’s hierarchy were more enthusiastic partakers of alcohol!

  2. You caught my attention with the line about “why psychoactive drugs exist in nature”. Nature is surely complex and it was interesting that there are so many reasons for these types of chemicals (to use a neutral term). I’m familiar with the need for plants to protect themselves from predators. When they are not successful humans can sometimes help. My best friend and his partner in Virginia have beautiful flowers in their back yard. They also have deer that visit who like to nibble on the flowers. My friends installed an automatic water sprinkler that keeps the deer at bay. Not quite so poisonous or intoxicating, but it keeps the flowers safe.

  3. O.R. Pagan says:

    Thank you very much for your kind review!

  4. Pingback: The Hacking of the American Mind | Reading Freely

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