Thursday, October 27, 2011

Mommy! It's a giant rat!

That was my son's first reaction when he saw this dude above stealing Mowgli's food on our patio. He was at least 10 pounds, twice the size of a newborn baby I carried tonight at church. His name is Opossum (Didelphis virginiana)
From Home to Louisiana Fur Advisory Council and Alligator Advisory Council
Fossils have been dated to 70 million years of age, the age of the dinosaurs. 
The female has an external fur-lined abdominal pouch for carrying young.
Habits:  Opossums are clean animals and groom regularly. They do not hibernate. The have a keen sense of smell. ( How? I wonder)
The young are extremely tiny, blind, and incomplete in development. It takes 22- 24 newborns to equal the weight of a penny. The are weaned in 75-80 days. As they grow, they cling to the mother's fur and ride on her back.
Controls: prey to dogs and horned owls; relatively free of parasites; afflicted by tapeworms and flatworms ( yucks)
The Virginia opossum is noted for reacting to threats by feigning death. This is the genesis of the term "playing possum", which means pretending to be dead or injured with intent to deceive. In the case of the opossum, the reaction seems to be involuntary, and to be triggered by extreme fear. It should not be taken as an indication of docility, for under serious threat, an opossum will respond ferociously, hissing, screeching, and showing its teeth. But with enough stimulation, the opossum will enter a near coma, which can last up to four hours. It lies on its side, mouth and eyes open, tongue hanging out, emitting a green fluid from its anus whose putrid odor repels predators. Besides discouraging animals that eat live prey, playing possum also convinces some large animals that the opossum is no threat to their young.
Opossums have thirteen nipples, arranged in a circle of twelve with one in the middle.
A traditional method of preparation is baking, sometimes in a pie or pastry,[22] though at present "possum pie" most often refers to a sweet confection containing no meat of any kind.

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