Did Dinosaurs Hallucinate After Chewing Grass?

Oldest grass specimen ever found was topped with fungus linked to LSD
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 11, 2015 9:15 AM CST
Did Dinosaurs Hallucinate After Chewing Grass?
This 100-million-year-old grass fossil is the earliest ever found. Its tip is covered by a parasitic fungus that's similar to ergot.   (Oregon State University)

If you're glad you weren't on the planet in the days when Stegosaurus was whipping its spiked tail around in agitation, imagine the dino stumbling around with its eyes ablaze on the prehistoric equivalent of an acid trip, courtesy of newly discovered fungus-tipped grass. A perfectly preserved, 100-million-year-old amber fossil found in Myanmar—the oldest grass fossil ever found—had a parasitic fungus clinging to its tip that's similar to ergot, the hallucinogen linked to the Salem witch trials, disease epidemics, and most recently, the development of LSD. Researchers at Oregon State University report in the latest issue of the journal Palaeodiversity that it's the oldest evidence to date that some of the planet's first grasses, as well as the dinosaurs and parasites that fed on them, coexisted.

The dark fungus clinging to the grass floret is called Palaeoclaviceps parasiticus and is a relative of ergot. The sample dates back to a time when dinosaurs and conifers dominated the landscape, and grasses and small mammals were just beginning to evolve, reports redOrbit. One theory is that fungi like ergot developed alongside grass as a defense mechanism, resulting in a foul taste that might ward off happily grazing herbivores. Whether this particular fungus would have had a hallucinogenic effect on dinosaurs remains unclear—after all, dose matters, and some of these creatures were huge—but the researchers say this much is now evident: Ergot-like fungus has been around as long as grass itself. (Just last year a family in Florida was hospitalized after eating LSD-laced meat from Walmart.)

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