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Imagine Dinosaurs Tripping on Psychedelics

It could have happened.

(Jonathan Blair/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

For millions of years, dinosaurs roamed the earth in search of prey and…psychedelics? Paleontologists have uncovered evidence that dinosaurs may have gotten high on an LSD-like fungus—and that psychedelics may have been around since at least the Cretaceous period.

The story of why scientists now suspect dinosaurs of drug trips began in a Myanmar mine, LiveScience reports. When scientists found a chunk of amber containing the oldest specimen of grass ever discovered, they also found fungus on the grass. An analysis showed that the fungus is similar to ergot, which grows on wheat, rye and other grasses.

That’s where the tripping comes in—because ergot packs a psychedelic wallop. Not only is ergot an LSD analogue, but it’s known to cause the burning convulsions known as “St. Anthony’s Fire.” Historians have even suggested that ergot spurred the Salem Witch Trials by causing girls to hallucinate.

The fossilized grass and its hitchhiking fungus show that ergot and grass evolved together and were available to dinosaurs, says George Poinar, Jr., the study’s lead author:

It indicates that psychedelic compounds were present back in the Cretaceous. What effect it had on animals is difficult to tell, but my feeling is dinosaurs definitely fed on this grass.

We may never know how psychedelic grasses affected dinosaurs. But while you’re envisioning tripping dinosaurs stumbling about a prehistoric landscape, don’t forget that other animals have been known to dabble in drugs, too. From huffing dolphins to stoned water buffaloes, it seems there have always been plenty of ways for the animal kingdom to turn on, tune in and trip out.

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