The base of this new study lies on the discovery on a impeccably preserved amber fossil that contains the oldest specimen of grass ever to be uncovered by man. The grass is a whopping 100-million years old and it is actually grass with a bit of a very special fungus of the ergot type on top.
The piece of amber with the precious grass in it was found inside the amber mines in Burma by German Paleontologist Joerg Wunderlich. Millions of years ago, the region of Burma was where Sauropods used to live.
Wunderlich said that when he first saw the grass in amber assumed that it was just a piece of fossilized flower and it sent it to the lab. Dr. George Poinar, a paleo-entomologist, recognized the plant as being one of the most ancient grass on Earth and on top of it he identified a fungus called ergot. Ergot typically grows on rye and from it LSD gets made.
Dr. Poinar couldn’t say what effects this particular fungus had on dinosaurs, but he did say that we could look at the effects the fungus have on birds and lizards today, which is quite a strong one. He continued:
But whether this occurred in dinosaurs, we just don’t know. We don’t know how much they would have had to eat.
Any animal or birds that eats this fungus will get high from it, so it is safe to assume that dinosaurs got high after consuming plants infested with the ergot fungus.
The particular prehistoric ergot fungus was identified as being Palaeoclaviceps parasiticus, a distant, but similar relative to the current Claviceps, the present ergot fungus. This modern fungus grows on rye and wheat and it is believed that the production of this fungus is the plant’s self-defense mechanism. The fungus gives the plant a bitter taste, which deters animals and birds from eating it.
Around 1,000 compounds have been derived from this particular fungus, some of which are drugs such as LSD.
Image Source: NBC News
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