Oregon (Pontiac) – It’s too often that humans forget how similar we actually are to other creatures, even distant ones. Animals of all types feel, explore, socialize and even experiment. That’s what Oregon State University researchers suspect dinosaurs–yes, dinosaurs–may have been up to, 65 million years before deadheads walked the planet.
This most recent find has compelled zoologist George Poinar Jr. to suggest “ergot has been involved with animals and humans almost forever.” Driving the point home, Poinar mentions ergot’s presence on earth since the earliest evolution of grasses. Researchers have little doubt that sauropod dinosaurs–”long necks”, as some call them–ate the ergot. It’s anyone’s guess, however, what effects if any the fungus had on the creatures.
Fun fact: Ergot was the original source of the famous psychedelic compound LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide). As the story goes, Albert Hoffman was looking for medicines which could be synthesized from ergoloid fungus. LSD was discovered largely by accident, and its incredible effects on the mind weren’t realized until some time later.
Ergot itself can be harsher than the sometimes cleansing, spiritually uplifting LSD molecule. Psychosis, hallucinations, convulsions and muscle spasms are all reported with ergot consumption. It’s also been theorized that early reports of werewolves and even witches had their roots in ergot hallucinations.
Some have theorized that early psychedelic use may have been what stimulated the development of the human brain. Late linguist, ethnobotanist, and psychonaut Terence McKenna coined this notion with his “stoned ape theory.” McKenna suspected early human ancestors may have consumed psilocybin-containing mushrooms growing in dung.
Studies have shown that very small amounts of the compound actually increase visual acuity. Those amounts, in fact, aren’t nearly enough to have an experience, or even to “feel” anything. With that, McKenna suggested some early hominids who ate shrooms discovered an adaptive advantage. An advantage over their peers, allowing them to spot both food and predators. The habits get passed down with the genes, and nature takes its course. Even McKenna, however, was dubious as to at what point mushroom use became more spiritual.
If McKenna’s theory does hold any water, then does that trend transcend species? If so, could it reach back to the time of the ergot consuming dinos? The preserved specimen is just one in who knows how many psychotropic species which existed at that time.