Syrian Golden Hamsters: The Drunken Uncles of the Rodent World

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Image credit: Michael Clinard

Syrian golden hamsters are—to put it mildly—the drunken uncles of the rodent world. In the wild, these hard-partying hamsters spend their summers gathering and storing fruit as a survival measure. By winter, when they need to break into the stash, the fruit has fermented. Over time, the Syrian hamsters’ appetite for alcohol only increases. Today, when given the choice between booze and water, these cuddly alcoholics choose the hard stuff every time.

Wilder still, the critters are impervious to hamster-ball DUIs. Because so much of their natural diet involves alcohol, Syrian hamsters have evolved to sport cartoonishly large livers that are nearly five times normal size (in relation to their other body parts). As a result, these hamsters rarely get sloshed.

While this biological quirk is great news for anyone who’s thinking of marketing cocktails to rodents, it’s even better for scientists. Researchers always need test subjects for alcohol studies, and Syrian golden hamsters are the perfect tipplers for any lab.

This article originally appeared in the March-April issue of mental_floss magazine. Get a free issue here!

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March 26, 2012 - 12:50pm
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