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Re: Possums (A Challenge)

About Opossums -

From the website www.opossum.org/facts.htm:
(I've prefixed each paragraph with ">>")

North America's only marsupial (female has a pouch) mammal. The female carries and nurses her young in her marsupium until they are about 2 to 3 months old; then they are carried on her back another 1 to 2 months whenever they are away from the den.

Size of a cat; grey to black fur; black eyes; pink nose, feet and tail; black ears; and pointed nose.

Solitary and nocturnal: usually slow moving; when frightened and unable to flee may fall into an involuntary shock-like state, "playing 'possum".

Hiss or growl and show their 50 sharp teeth when frightened; but, in reality, they are gentle and placid? they prefer to avoid all confrontations and wish to be left alone.

Omnivorous: eats insects, snails, rodents, berries, over-ripe fruit, grasses, leaves, and carrion; occasionally will eat snakes, ground eggs, corn or other vegetables.

Adaptable; able to live wherever water, food, and shelter exist. At home in trees; uses its prehensile tail to help stabilize position when climbing? it does not, however, hang by its tail.

Few live beyond the age of 1 year in the environment; rare reports of living 5 to 10 years in captivity. Killed by many predators: humans (and cars), dogs, cats, owls, and larger wildlife.

The aforementioned shock-like state would cause the opossum to appear to be dead, very convincingly; and probably causes the anal muscles to loosen up, emitting the noxious fumes (or triggers the gland to emit the odor), thereby enhancing the effect.

Allan Edels
From: Jacquie <jacquieh49@yahoo.com>
Reply-To: jacquieh49@yahoo.com
To: dinosaur@usc.edu
Subject: Re: Possums (A Challenge)
Date: Fri, 06 May 2005 05:27:28 -0700 (PDT)

I never post because I'm not a scientist, but I just
have to pipe up here because 'possums, I know (ugh,
nasty creatures). They are MUCH more convincing at
playing dead than a human could ever be - or any other
animal I can think of except maybe a hognose snake.
They go limp, open their mouths, close their eyes,
hang their tongues out and emit an unbelievably
noxious dead smell from an anal gland. Actually, they
emit this smell all of the time on a _very_ slightly
less offensive scale...

When I saw the Discovery channel show about T-Rex that
was made with Dr. Horner's view that T-Rex was a
scavenger and showed him with blood all over his head
and really yucky and dirty looking, the first thing I
thought was, "Ewwwww, they must have smelled like
incredibly big 'possums! I sure am glad they're not
around any more!" :o)

> On Thu, 05 May 2005 13:53:00 -0600 Swift Claw
> <missraptor@deadraccoon.com> writes:
Nobody seems to have mentioned that 'possums play
dead as a defense against predators instead of running
away from them.  Or is this just an urban myth
devised to confuse Colorado-bound people like me who
have never actually seen one of these creatures?
> --- Phil Bigelow <bigelowp@juno.com> wrote:

> It is used by possums as a last-ditch attempt at
surviving an attack.  If a possum has other options
available, it will use them first.
> Playing dead sometimes works for humans who are
> being attacked by bears,provided that the bear isn't
hungry.  The problem is that most humans aren't mind
readers.  I also suspect that few possums are mind

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