INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT NORTH AMERICA’S ONLY MARSUPIAL, THE OPOSSUM!
I hope that after reading this, you might think more affectionately about this unique animal!
1. Natural immunity. Opossums are mostly immune to rabies, and in fact, they are eight times less likely to carry rabies compared to wild dogs.
2. Poison control. Opossums have superpowers against snakes. They have partial or total immunity to the venom produced by rattlesnakes, cottonmouths and other pit vipers.
3. Omnivores galore. Their normal diet consists of carrion, rodents, insects, snails, slugs, birds, eggs, frogs, plants, fruits and grains. They have an unusually high need for calcium, which incites them to eat the skeletons of rodents and road kill they consume. 4. Smart critters. They have a remarkable ability to find food and to remember where it is. When tested for the ability to remember where food is, opossums scored better than rats, rabbits, cats and dogs.
5. Pest control. Since their diet allows them to indulge on snails, slugs and beetles, they are a welcome addition to the garden. Opossums also keep rats and cockroaches at bay by competing with them for food. It is common for opossums to kill cockroaches and rats if they find them in their territory.
6. All thumbs. The opossum has opposable “thumbs.” The “thumbs” (called hallux) are on its rear feet and abet the opossum’s formidable climbing skills. Primate and opossums are the only mammals with opposable first toes.
7. Impressive tails. They have prehensile tails which are adapted for grasping and wrapping around things like tree limbs. They do not sleep hanging from its tail.
8. Good pupils. The eyes of the opossum appear black, but what we are seeing are the strongly dilated pupil; there is iris around them, it’s just mostly out of sight. The giant pupils are thought to be an adaptation to their nocturnal habits.
9. Smile! The mouth of an opossum holds an impressive 50 teeth.
10. Natural defenses. When threatened, opossums run, growl, belch, urinate and defecate. And when all else fails, they “play ‘possum" and act as if they are dead. It is an involuntary response (like fainting) rather than a conscious act. They roll over, become stiff, close their eyes (or stare off into space) and bare their teeth as saliva foams around the mouth and a foul-smelling fluid is secreted from glands. The catatonic state can last for up to four hours, and has proven effective as a deterrent to predators looking for a hot meal.
Male opossums are called jacks and females are called jills. The young are referred to as joeys.