Check out that beautiful piece of history. That's a piece of grass from around 100 million years ago -- the oldest ever found -- encased in amber. And it houses a little stow-away: a piece of ergot, a hallucinogenic fungus.
Ergot is kind of like a natural LSD (the artificial drug was actually made using compounds isolated from fungi), and when consumed on grasses like rye it causes "St. Anthony's Fire," an unpleasant condition of muscle spasms and hallucinations. Some historians even blame the fungus for the hysteria of the Salem witch trials.
It's hard to know whether or not this means dinosaurs were high on acid all day. We know so little about dinosaurs based on the fossils and traces they've left behind. We don't even know what dinosaurs sounded like, no matter what "Jurassic World" would have you believe, and we're still arguing about how colorful and plentiful their feathers might have been. Scientists don't have any obvious method of testing how dinosaurs reacted to ergot, or if it had anything close to the same trippy effects it has on humans.
"This is an important discovery that helps us understand the timeline of grass development, which now forms the basis of the human food supply in such crops as corn, rice or wheat," study author George Poinar, Jr. of Oregon State University said in a statement."But it also shows that this parasitic fungus may have been around almost as long as the grasses themselves, as both a toxin and natural hallucinogen."
Previous evidence has indicated that lush grasslands didn't exist until millions of years after the mass extinction of the dinosaurs. But this new fossil suggests that grasses were evolving much earlier than that, even though they might not have thrived. And at least as long as 100 million years ago, some very funky fungus was along for the evolutionary ride as well.