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  Differences in a gene for breaking down alcohol might help explain which mammals get tipsy



  A new genetic study suggests that elephants could have low alcohol tolerance,reopening a long-running debate over whether the animals ever get drunk.


  An elephant,a narwhal and a guinea pig walk into a bar.From there,things could get ugly.



  All three might get drunk easily,according to a new survey of a gene involved in metabolizing alcohol.They’re among the creatures affected by 10 independent breakdowns of the ADH7 gene during the history of mammal evolution.Inheriting that dysfunctional gene might make it harder for their bodies to break down ethanol,says molecular anthropologist Mareike Janiak of the University of Calgary in Canada.

  根据一项有关代谢酒精的基因的最新调查,这三种动物都容易醉酒。它们是哺乳动物进化史上受到10次ADH7基因独立失效影响的动物之一。加拿大卡尔加里大学的分子人类学家Mareike Janiak说,遗传这种功能失调的基因可能会使他们的身体更难分解乙醇。

  She and colleagues didn’t look at all the genes needed to metabolize ethanol,but the failure of this important one might allow ethanol to build up more easily in these animals’bloodstreams,Janiak and colleagues report April 29 in Biology Letters.

  Janiak及其同事在4月29日的《Biology Letters》上报道,她和同事们并未研究代谢乙醇所需的所有基因,但这一重要基因的改变可能使乙醇在这些动物的血液中更容易积聚。

  The carnivorous cetaceans,grain-or leaf-eating guinea pigs and most other animals that the study identified as potentially easy drunks probably don’t binge on sugary fruit and nectar that brews ethanol.Elephants,however,will feast on fruit,and the new study reopens a long-running debate over whether elephants truly get tipsy gorging on marula fruit,a relative of mangoes.


  Descriptions of elephants behaving oddly after binging on overripe fruit go back at least to 1875,Janiak says.Later,a taste test offering the animals troughs of water spiked with ethanol found that elephants willingly drank.Afterward,they swayed more when moving and seemed more aggressive,observers reported.<-->纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com<-->


  Yet in 2006,physiologist Steve Morris of the University of Bristol in England and colleagues attacked the notion of elephant inebriation as“a myth.”Among their arguments was a calculation that even if African elephants really were feasting on fallen,fermenting marula fruit,the animals could not physically eat the huge amount necessary at one time to get a buzz(SN:6/13/17).However,that calculation extrapolated from human physiology.The new insight that elephants’ADH7 gene doesn’t work might mean they have a lower tolerance for the tipple.

  然而在2006年,英国布里斯托尔大学的生理学家Steve Morris和他的同事攻击大象醉酒的概念是一个“神话”。他们的论点之一是,就算非洲象真的以正在发酵的马鲁拉果实为食,它们也不可能一次吃下足够多的果实(SN:6/13/17).然而,这种计算是根据人类生理学推断出来的。。新的发现表明,大象的ADH7基因不起作用,这可能意味着它们对烈酒的耐受性较低。

  It wasn’t elephants,though,but tree shrews that inspired the new work(SN:7/28/08).They look like“cute squirrels with pointed noses,”says senior author Amanda Melin,a biological anthropologist also at Calgary,and they have a prodigious tolerance for alcohol.Concentrations of ethanol that would make a human sloppy apparently don’t phase the little animals.She,Janiak and colleagues decided to survey all of the mammal genetic information that they could find to indirectly assess the variety of responses to alcohol.“We were on a patio drinking beer when we first sketched out the paper,”Janiak remembers.

  然而,启发这项新研究的并不是大象,而是树鼩(SN:7/28/08)。卡尔加里的生物人类学家、资深作家Amanda Melin说,它们看起来就像可爱的尖鼻子松鼠,而且它们对酒精有着惊人的耐受力。乙醇的浓度会使人变得邋遢,但显然不会影响小动物。她,Janiak及其同事决定调查他们可以找到的所有哺乳动物遗传信息,以间接评估对酒精反应的多样性。Janiak回忆说:“当拟初稿时,我们正在一个露台上喝啤酒。”<纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com/>

  Looking at genetic information available on 79 mammal species,researchers found that ADH7 has lost its function in 10 separate spots on the mammal family tree.These ethanol-susceptible twigs sprout quite different animals:elephants,armadillos,rhinos,degus,beavers and cattle among them.


  In contrast,humans and nonhuman African primates have the reverse situation,a mutation that renders their ADH7 some 40 times more efficient at dismantling ethanol than a typical mammalian version.What gives tree shrews their drinking superpower,however,remains a mystery since they don’t have the same superefficient gene.


  Like humans,aye-ayes carry a gene mutation that allows them to break down ethanol some 40 times more efficiently than animals without the mutation.


  Finding the gene dysfunction in the African elephant,however,raises questions about the old inebriation arguments.A slower capacity for clearing ethanol from the body could mean that the smallish amount that an elephant gets from eating its full of fermented fruit might be enough to change their behavior after all,Melin says.


  Behavioral ecologist Phyllis Lee has been watching elephants in Kenya’s Amboseli National Park since 1982 and is now director of science for Amboseli Trust for Elephants.“In my youth,we tried to brew a form of maize beer(we were desperate),and the elephants loved to drink it,”she says.She does not take sides in the myth debate,although she muses about the“huge liver”of elephants,which would have at least some detoxifying power.


  “I never saw one that was tipsy,”Lee says,although that home brew“didn’t do much for us puny humans either.”



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