Pen-tailed treeshrew

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Pen-tailed treeshrew
Ptilocercus lowii.jpg
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Scandentia
Family: Ptilocercidae
Lyon, 1913
Genus: Ptilocercus
Gray, 1848
P. lowii[1]
Binomial name
Ptilocercus lowii[1]
Gray, 1848
Pen-tailed Treeshrew area.png
Pen-tailed treeshrew range

The pen-tailed treeshrew (Ptilocercus lowii) is a treeshrew native to southern Thailand, the Malay Peninsula, Borneo, and some Indonesian islands.[2]

It is the only species in the genus Ptilocercus. All other treeshrew species are grouped in the family Tupaiidae.[1] It is considered the closest relative of extant primates.[3]

Pen-tailed treeshrews are the only known mammals that consume alcohol every night, other than humans. According to a study of treeshrews in Malaysia, they spend several hours per night consuming the equivalent of 10 to 12 glasses of wine with an alcohol content up to 3.8% drinking naturally fermented nectar of the bertam palm. This nectar contains one of the highest alcohol concentrations of all natural foods. Pen-tailed treeshrews frequently consume large amounts of this nectar while showing no signs of intoxication. Measurements of a biomarker of ethanol breakdown suggest that they may be metabolizing it by a pathway that is not used as heavily by humans. Their ability to ingest high amounts of alcohol is hypothesized to have been an evolutionary adaptation in the phylogenic tree. However, how pen-tailed treeshrews benefit from this alcohol ingestion or what consequences of consistent high blood alcohol content might factor into their physiology is unclear.[4]

Taxonomy and evolutionary history[edit]

The Ptilocercidae are a family within the order Scandentia. Numerous morphological and genetic differences support the classification of the Ptilocercidae as a separate family from the rest of the treeshrews which diverged around 63 million years ago.[2] Treeshrews were considered a close relative of primates, but recent genetic data have concluded that the Dermoptera, not the Ptilocercidae, are the appropriate out-group for study of primates.[3]


  1. ^ a b Helgen, K.M. (2005). "Ptilocercus lowii". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 108–109. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  2. ^ a b c Cassola, F. (2016). "Ptilocercus lowii". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2017-3. International Union for Conservation of Nature. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2016-2.RLTS.T41491A22278277.en
  3. ^ a b Janečka, J. E., Miller, Thomas, W., Pringle, H., Wiens, F., Zitzmann, A., Helgen, K. M., Springer, M. S. and Murphy, W. J. (2007). "Molecular and Genomic Data Identify the Closest Living Relative of Primates". Science 318: 792−794. doi:10.1126/science.1147555.
  4. ^ Wiens, F.; Zitzmann, A.; Lachance, M.-A.; Yegles, M.; Pragst, F.; Wurst, F. M.; von Holst, D.; Guan, S. L.; Spanagel, R. (2008). "Chronic intake of fermented floral nectar by wild tree-shrews". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 105 (30): 10426–10431. doi:10.1073/pnas.0801628105. PMC 2492458. PMID 18663222. Retrieved 2008-07-29.

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