The South's favorite boiled snack is helping to make a scientific breakthrough.

By Melissa Locker
December 09, 2019
Rene Johnston/Toronto Star/Getty Images

For years, scientists have tried to figure out whether a sociable setting can encourage drunkenness. Specifically, they wanted to know whether drinking in a friendly crowd can actually make you more drunk, as opposed to drinking alone. Guess these scientists weren't invited to too many tailgating parties or book clubs, because to get to the root of this problem, they turned to crawfish. Yes, crawfish, the beloved mud bugs that play a starring role in low country holidays and crawfish boils around the South.

As The Economist reports, researchers at the University of Maryland spent a lot of time planning a crawfish party, because crawfish process ethanol the same way as humans. To study the effects of sociability on alcohol processing, 102 crustaceans spent seven and 10 days in groups, while the remaining 63 crawfish were raised in isolation. The scientists then placed all 165 crawfish individually in tanks filled with ethanol in water, which is like a margarita, but much less fun. The scientists then sat back to see which crawfish would get drunk more quickly.

Researchers said the crawfish raised in groups got drunk 25 percent faster than those kept in isolation. As to how they knew a crawfish was drunk, according to The Economist, crawfish act a lot like your Aunt Mae after she's had one too many glasses of eggnog at the Christmas pageant: "First, they started walking around on tiptoes. Then, they began flicking their tails and doing somersaults (see picture). Finally, the most inebriated ended up lying on their backs, kicking their legs in the air—or, rather, in the water."

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Through their study, the scientists were able to prove what countless sorority gatherings and, yes, even crawfish boils have shown for years—that a sociable upbringing does indeed increase sensitivity to alcohol. Feel free to share this fact over a glass of wine or two at the next crawfish boil.

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