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article imageDinosaurs and LSD might have co-existed, new study claims

By Sravanth Verma     Feb 10, 2015 in Science
A new study that analyzed a 100-million-year-old amber fossil containing the earliest known grass specimen found that it contained a fungus much like ergot, from which LSD is derived.
The fossil (pictured in this flickr photo from the Oregon State University) comes from Myanmar and was analyzed by researchers, from Oregon State University, the USDA Agricultural Research Service and Germany. The extinct fungus, Palaeoclaviceps parasiticus, is similar to Claviceps, which is commonly called ergot. The fossil, between 97 and 110 million years old from the Cretaceous period, was found in amber mines in the Asian nation. During this era in Earth's history, dinosaurs and conifers dominated land, though small mammals, flowering plants and grasses were beginning to make an appearance, and along with them, psychotropic fungi too!
Ergot has been around for much longer than LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), and has been used in medicine, as a toxin, as a hallucinogen, and according to research, still under debate, was responsible for the Salem witch trials. Over 1000 compounds have been derived from it.
Grasses today are estimated to include 20 percent of global vegetation, and include food crops such as wheat. Ergot might be a natural defense mechanism for grasses. It creates a bitter taste that puts off livestock, and is known to cause hallucinations, delirium, gangrene and convulsions among today's fauna. But with the new find, ergot-like fungi seem to have been connected with grasses since the very beginning of their evolution. "It seems like ergot has been involved with animals and humans almost forever, and now we know that this fungus literally dates back to the earliest evolution of grasses," said George Poinar, Jr., faculty at the OSU College of Science.
What effect this hallucinogen might have had on a massive saurpod dinosaur is hard to say, The researchers are quite emphatic that the grass on which the fungus survived, and consequently the fungus itself, would have been consumed by dinosaurs. "There's no doubt in my mind that it would have been eaten by sauropod dinosaurs, although we can't know what exact effect it had on them," Poinar, an expert in analyzing fossils in amber, said.
Amber, which begins as a tree sap, can flow around small flora and fauna, permanently encasing them in resin and fossilizing into a semi-precious stone, as depicted famously in the movie Jurassic Park.
The paper was published online in the journal Palaeodiversity.
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