We’ve all been there before — you’re with your friends, you’ve had a few drinks, and suddenly you decide that it would be incredibly impressive for you to perform some sort of physical feat: a back flip, a somersault or the splits.
As it turns out, crayfish act the exact same way. And that may actually give scientists insights into the relationship between alcohol and social behavior.
In a new paper published by the Journal of Experimental Biology, researchers from the University of Maryland describe how sociable crustaceans appear to become intoxicated faster than those who are isolated.
To examine this effect, researchers took hundreds of crayfish, some kept alone and some with others, and placed them in water tanks with varying levels of alcohol, with the stiffest clocking in at a little under six percent, or the equivalent of a beer.
In the tanks with the strongest concentration of alcohol, the crayfish quickly began showing signs of intoxication, flipping their tails, walking on tiptoes and lying on their back flailing their legs, according to The Economist.
In other tanks with smaller doses of alcohol, the crayfish exhibited the same signs but at a slower rate, as one might expect.
But what stood out to researchers was the fact that the crayfish kept by themselves took longer than others to get drunk.
“This clearly shows a socially induced change in their reaction to alcohol,” the study’s lead author, Jens Herberholz, told New Scientist.
According to Herberholz, the difference between loners and social drinkers is caused by alterations to the receptors on nerve cells. Social environments cause the receptors to change how they respond to neurotransmitters, which in turn affects how alcohol affects nerves.
Crayfish have large and easily observable nerve cells, which is why researchers used the animals for the study. They hypothesize that the same affect is seen in humans, so that socially isolated people need to drink more to feel intoxicated.
Part of that affect, among humans at least, may be because of expectations and not actual science. Studies have shown that people who believe alcohol will make them more social or help them fit in tend to drink more, according to The Atlantic.