Ptilocercus – Pen-tailed treeshrew

A drunkard – the only known mammal that consumes alcohol every night from fermented nectar of the bertam palm

Inhabiting the dense, humid rainforests of Southeast Asia, including Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia, pen-tailed treeshrews have adapted remarkably to their arboreal lifestyle.

One of the most distinguishing features of the pen-tailed treeshrew is its distinctive tail, from which it derives its name. Approximately two-fifths of the tail is adorned with plume-like hairs, starting with black at the base and gradually fading to white at the tip. This unique tail is not just for show; it plays a role in the treeshrew’s communication and possibly in its mating rituals, though the specifics of these behaviors remain a subject for further research.

Pen-tailed treeshrews exhibit a versatile diet that includes fruits such as grapes and bananas, as well as insects like grasshoppers and crickets. This omnivorous diet allows them to take advantage of the various food sources their rainforest home provides. However, one of the most fascinating aspects of their dietary habits is their consumption of fermented nectar from the bertam palm (Eugeissona tristis). This nectar, which can have an alcohol concentration of up to 3.8%, is among the natural foods with the highest alcohol content known.

A notable study highlighted that pen-tailed treeshrews regularly consume this fermented nectar in amounts that would be equivalent to 10 to 12 glasses of wine for a human. Despite this, they show no signs of intoxication, suggesting a remarkable evolutionary adaptation to metabolize alcohol efficiently. This unique tolerance to alcohol has intrigued scientists, as it may offer insights into the metabolic processes of other mammals, including humans.