Can you eat as many chili peppers as a Chinese tree shrew? Probably not. A recent study found that these tree shrews are the only mammal aside from humans known to deliberately seek out spicy foods.
Researchers in China found a mutation in the species’ ion channel receptor, TRPV1, that makes it less sensitive to capsaicin, the “hot” chemical in chili peppers.
This is the channel that acts as a pain receptor on the tongues and throats of mammals, alerting the brain when it comes in contact with harmful heat. (Read the history of spicy peppers in human cuisine.)
But thanks to the genetic mutation, tree shrews don’t feel as much pain from spicy food.
For the study, the scientists captured