I Trip, Ergot I Am

SciShort_2-19-15What if Jurassic Park didn’t have any dinosaurs? What if instead of repopulating the thunder lizards, the scientists on Isla Nublar had stuck their hi-tech syringes in amber and extracted prehistoric LSD? Well for starters, the movie adaptation would probably star James Franco instead of Sam Neill, but this bit of revisionist popular culture is actually sort of happening; OSU researchers have discovered a perfectly preserved blade of grass in amber, and it’s apparently covered in fungus that will make you trip.

Ergot is a fungus that grows primarily on cereal grains and has psychotropic characteristics that make people who ingest it start to sort of like jam band music. Some historians have suggested that it may have been responsible for a lot of the apocalyptic visions and mass hysterias that were so popular in the Dark Ages. Essentially it’s a precursor to LSD, and before we knew what it was, we inadvertently ate a lot of it. Apparently, so did the dinosaurs.

“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., of the OSU College of Science in a recent press release.

The fungus they found on the preserved grass is called Palaeoclaviceps parasiticus and it dates back to 97 to 110 million years ago. It’s not exactly the same as ergot, but they are very similar, and now the research team is theorizing about the righteous meltdowns dinosaurs would have had after eating grass covered in the fungus.

Fortunately they also discovered the fossilized remains of a tent where the tripping dinosaurs could calm down, eat some orange slices, and remember that it’s all going to be okay, man.

By Sidney Reilly