Mild-Mannered Gentlemen Prairie Voles Become Cheating Jerks When They're Drinking

By Noah Kaufman |
VOLE DRUNKEN BEHAVIOR

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The scientific community is tackling some of the world’s great problems: how to cure cancer, the search for renewable energy and, of course, the relationship issues of drunken prairie voles. In case you didn’t know: Prairie voles, like emperor penguins and an ever-shrinking number of human beings, are monogamous. At least when they’re sober. Science now reveals that when they’ve had a few, the guy prairie voles become dogs.

According to a report from Smithsonian magazine, scientists recently served ethanol to some prairie vole couples. The lushes drank 12.5 grams for every kilogram of their weight. (If our quick math is correct, that would be as if a 160-pound man drank two pounds of alcohol, which seems crazy, but hey, prairie voles like to party.) Then they separated longtime prairie vole partners and introduced them to new potential mates.

The result? Almost all of the female voles ignored temptation, but it was just the opposite for the males, almost all of which preferred the company of the exciting new strangers. Sober males, by comparison, just wanted the warm embrace of their original partners.

The researchers say that alcohol affected certain brain proteins in males, reducing their anxiety. With lower levels of anxiety, the males did not feel compelled to stay committed to their females. You can puzzle out for yourself if this means that the only thing keeping couples together is a high level of anxiety.

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