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This article is from the In-Depth Report A Field Guide to Bats
60-Second Science

Drunk Bats Prefer Sobering Sugar

Accidentally inebriated Egyptian fruit bats prefer the type of sugar, fructose, that helps them detox faster.

Flying around in the dark is tough enough without being drunk.  But fruit bats are sometimes accidentally faced with the challenge of navigating nocturnally while inebriated. Research just announced at the annual meeting of the Society for Experimental Biology in Glasgow, however, finds that the blitzed bats know how to sober up.

Egyptian fruit bats enjoy—surprise—fruit.  Like figs and dates.  As these fleshy fruits ripen, their alcohol levels naturally increase.  And a flying mammal that ingests enough fruit alcohol may give an unfortunate double meaning to the word smashed.  Of course, hitting something isn’t the only problem—with its acroBATic abilities impeded, the furry flyer could itself more easily become a meal for some sober predator. 

But bats know a sweet solution: sugar helps them detox.  And bats specifically prefer fructose when they’re wasted.  Because, as researchers discovered, bat alcohol levels went down faster when the bats ate fructose than when they ate glucose.  The scientists found this by actually analyzing the rodents’ exhalations. That’s right, the scientists had bat breath. 

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