Squirrels survive after eating poisonous mushrooms

Squirrels in Japan have been found repeatedly eating highly toxic mushrooms that could harm them, baffling a scientist and photographer who observed them.

Images published in the magazine Borders of ecology and environment December 1 show Japanese squirrels eating different species of amanita mushrooms, which are poisonous to humans and many animals.

When consumed by humans, mushrooms can cause delusions, hallucinations, seizures, comas, and even death in rare cases.

The scientist and photographer who documented the squirrel’s behavior told the paper that the animals returned to eat the poisonous mushrooms for several days, suggesting they were safe to eat.

A study Japanese squirrel eating an amanita muscaria or flying amanita mushroom. Mushrooms are poisonous and squirrels have been documented eating them safely.
Koichi Gomi

The most famous kind of amanitas, amanita muscariaalso known as the fly agaric or the fly agaric, have been referenced in popular culture, including the computer game series Super Mario.

Visual distortion of objects is a common symptom of eating the mushroom which, as the research authors noted, informed the hallucinatory elements of Lewis Carrol’s 1865 novel. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The protagonist is given mushrooms to eat in the book.

Kenji Suetsugu, an associate professor in the Department of Biology at Kobe University, worked with photographer Koichi Gomi on the findings.

“I was really surprised. I was worried that the squirrel had a stomach ache,” Suetsugu said. Newsweek. “However, the same individual squirrel returned a few days later to continue feeding on a panther’s hat mushroom, leading us to conclude that it is highly likely that these squirrels can safely consume poisonous mushrooms. .”

The authors said their observations suggest there is a symbiotic relationship between squirrels and poisonous mushrooms. Not only do squirrels likely benefit from eating the mushrooms, but they could also help distribute the mushroom spores.

Suetsugu said the poison found in mushrooms can still deter other animals that may not have what appears to be a mutually beneficial relationship.

Mushrooms like Amanita are thought to be poisonous to deter animals from eating them.

At present, however, the symbiotic relationship between squirrels and fungi is hypothetical. The research raises many questions warranting further study, the authors said.

How squirrels can survive by eating toxins “deserves future study. As things stand, we cannot answer the question,” Suetsugu said.

“Some other squirrels are also known to eat poisonous mushrooms, but the main point of this study is that we were able to understand that the same individuals eat them daily,” he said.

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