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RE: Possums was Anhingas (A Challenge)

--- Tim Williams <twilliams_alpha@hotmail.com> wrote:
> Don Ohmes wrote:
> >Now tell me why possums don't get: stronger,
> prettier, faster, smarter, or 
> >anything else.
> You forgot 'hornier'.  Possums are proficient
> breeders: 13 or more young per 
> litter, and can produce 2-3 litters per year. 
> That's the first reason.
> Possums have a "Fear Factor" diet: they eat almost
> anything.  Their diet 
> includes bugs, snails, carrion, trash, as well as
> fruits and berries.
> Possums are also very versatile, and have adapted
> quite well to urbanization 
> (the diet helps).  This has helped them enormously
> in the modern U.S.

They are prolific, omnivorous and adapt well to urban
environments. That explains how they survive in their
present form, but does it explain why they don't
"improve", particularly relative to locomotion? They
don't climb well, run well, or even walk well relative
to other mammals. Granted, it is not possible for
selection to change a trait w/ zero variance, and the
difference between a fast and a slow possum may be
effectively zero relative to predator speed. But do
cast-iron stomachs and prolificity somehow mean
locomotive competence is disadvantageous? Even possums
have to compete for food.

> >(What's it been now, =>60 mys?)
> I'm a little behind on my Metatheria evolution, but
> crown-group Didelphidae 
> (or Didelphinae) probably first appeared quite a
> while later than 60 mya.  
> The Didelphidae was once used as a wastebasket for
> primitive-looking 
> putative metatherians (like _Alphadon_), and this
> erroneously stretched the 
> record of the family back to the Late Cretaceous.

That is very interesting. Thanks! If possums are a
young species, that negates the basic premise ("little
or no change since 'way back when") of the question
right there.

> BTW, in Australia and New Zealand, 'possum' refers
> to an entirely separate 
> group of marsupials, more properly known as
> phalangers, gliders, and honey 
> possums.  The Western Hemisphere possums are more
> properly known as 
> 'opossum' 

Saying "oh possum" can get you run out of town where I
come from...can't be high-hatting folks like that. :)

>or (in some parts of the U.S.) 'dinner'.

Yes. Not at all like chicken!

[Way greasy and too much trouble in my view. You got
to cage them, feed them corn for two weeks (see "Fear
Factor" diet, above), then kill them, burn off the
hair, scald and scrape them like a hog... bake them
whole w/ sweet potatoes, and then they are only just
OK, IMO. I hear the hardcore folks don't remove the
entrails cause they are "stuffed with pure corn". I
don't think that's just legend...the whole process
would make a good FF episode, if you could get it past
the animal rights groups.]


> Tim