Humans are often divided over whether they enjoy hot sauce or not, and while many people have different palettes and preferences, it is typically thought of that humans are the only species that enjoys spicy foods.
But you’ll be surprised to hear that that’s not true – and while there aren’t hordes of animals chowing down on ghost peppers – there are a couple of animals that have a peculiar set of taste buds made for some spice.
- Tree shrews
According to National Geographic, tree shrews are the only other mammal – alongside humans – who seek out spicy food.
Tree shrews are native to the forests in South East Asia, particularly in places like China. They are relatively small in stature and have developed a surprising endurance to spicy food.
Researchers in China, believe this endurance stems from a genetic mutation in the TRPV1 (transient receptor potential vanilloid subfamily, member 1) receptor. Typically, TRPV1 alerts animals that they’re eating spicy food by mimicking symptoms of intense heat, for example: sweating and a burning sensation in the mouth.
However, it’s this mutation in the receptors that allows tree shews to eat an abundance of spicy food without feeling these symptoms – and actually even enjoy capsaicin-based foods.
The belief is that this mutation has allowed the tree shrew to develop a better chance of survival in the wild, as now they have a wider range of food to keep them alive.
It’s a notoriously common problem that when you try to feed the birds in your garden, other animals always try to come and eat the food instead – we’re looking at you squirrels.
However, a good way to get around this, which people may not know about, is to replace typical bird seed with something spicy. Whether it’s a drizzle of hot sauce or a dash of chilli flakes, birds aren’t irritated by the heat of spicy food.
This is because the compound that is found so frequently in hot foods, capsaicin, doesn’t register to birds. Typically, humans and animals have a pain receptor called TRPV1 also known as the capsaicin receptor, however, while birds have this receptor, the degree in which the heat is felt is at a lower level.
Either way, if you want to make sure your birds are well-fed, then the key may be spicy foods; just make sure you’re not harming any other animals in the process.