A Mr. Buford 'High-Pockets' Boxelder from Possum Hollow West Virginia asks...
Dear Mr. Knowitall, I just LOVE my pet possum 'Sleepy'.
Can you tell me a little something about these ornery critters?
Dear High-Pockets, you bet your britches I can!!
Possums are among the oldest mammals on Earth! Fossil records show them going back nearly 100 Million years. And strangly enough, those scary toothy hissy little marsupials, are nearly identical to the ones that walked with T-Rex! They have survived that long with very little evolutionary changes. There used to be thousands of species of marsupials in North America, but over a period of about Ten Thousand years, they all migrated south to what is now South America. All except one that is...The Possum!
The Survival cards were stacked against them though...
They are NOT fast: Top speed 1.7 MPH!
They are NOT large: Adults range from 6-12 #'s
They are Not smart: It has the smallest brain to body ratio of any land animal.
They are not agressive or well suited for fighting. So how did they beat the odds?
* They will eat ANYTHING..Worms , snails , insects, toads, garbage, vegetables.
* They are unusualy resistant to diseases. Including rabies! And snake venom does not seem to bother them too much either. A bite from a viper that could kill a horse, has little effect on a Possum.
* They have a prehensile (grasping) tail that can be used for gathering nest material, and they can climb trees and hang from branches to escape predators!
* They are the only species other than primates that have an opposable thumb. It's on their hind feet, and they use it to grasp with...Just like humans.
* "Playing Possum"...When they are threatened by an enemy, they don't have a lot to work with. Oh they hiss and growl, and bare their 50 or so teeth, and vomit and deficate toward you, and even emit a foul odor. But a very hungry predator is not scared off by a little puke and shit, so they have their greatest weapon...They pass out! It's not a ploy...When confronted by overwhelming danger, their system shuts down and goes into a 'Coma' or shock-like state. The heart rate drops, body temperature drops, the tongue hangs out, they drool, and to most they appear dead. Most predators will not eat dead animals, they may sniff around, but usually walk off leaving it alone.
* Male Possums have a forked penis! Female Possums have a two-channel vagina! That means everything has to line up perfectly for successful mating, this simple biological trait has prevented them from being cross-bred over the years. Thats why they will probably survive another 100 Million years!!
I hope that this has been informative and educational 'High-Pockets'...
BTW...Wednesday afternoon about 1:00 PM or so, I should be passing right through Possum Hollow West Virginia. Maybe we can meet down by Ma Puckett's General Store and have some boiled peanuts and a Moon-Pie?
Mr. Knowitall grows weary...