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Archive for the ‘Marsupials’ Category

Got this ‘possum in cage

It’s a little female Virginia opossum.

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The much ballyhooed prehensile tail:

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Remarkable discovery in the snow!

Thylacine sighting

 

 

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Old opossum

old opossom

I get opossums on the trail camera fairly regularly, and because I find them somewhat less interesting than other animals, I usually don’t post their photos on here.

This one, however, is kind of interesting because it has the features of a very mature individual. Now, keep in mind that Virginia opossums don’t live very long, even though they are about the size of a domestic cat. In captivity, their record longevity is a measly four years.

But this individual is at least on its second year.  The frostbitten ears suggest that it has survived more than couple of very hard freezes.

As opossums mature, they get a lumpy head profile.  When they are younger, they have a more collie- or borzoi-like head, but as they get up in years, this starts to change.

This opossum is the most primitive mammal north of the Rio Grande, and when I say this, I don’t mean that it’s primitive because it’s a marsupial. It’s actually a primitive marsupial, meaning that it looks very much like the earliest mammals that gave rise to all marsupials. Indeed, it is so primitive that the similarities between New World opossums and the West Indian solenodons are pretty striking. The two species of solenodon retain many primitive features of the ancestral placental mammals, and it would make sense that the primitive opossums and primitive solenodons would look somewhat similar to each other.

Beyond their taxonomy, there aren’t really that many amazing things about opossums. They don’t have very complex behavior.  There are claims of them having amazing intelligence that one can find online, but these clams are not born out in reality.

The thing is, you don’t have to be too smart if you can eat just about anything and reproduce by having dozens of offspring every year.

And even though they are primitive, natural selection has still worked its ways on their kind, but it’s just not change them as much as it has us, coyotes, or red kangaroos.

 

 

 

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An old opossum

This old opossum is a survivor. It looks like it even has a bit of frost bite on the ears from last winter.

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Intelligent “dog with hands” versus primitive (and quite stupid) marsupial:

Source.

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Treed opossum, 1917

opossum treed 1917

This photo comes from Mammals of America by Harold Elmer Anthony. This book was published in 1917, so it unfortunately refers to the opossum hunter as a “Southern Darkey.”

Of course, African Americans living the South often hunted opossums for meat, and they relied upon good treeing dogs to assist them in their hunts.

This dog appears to be of a farm shepherd type, but just as often, they would rely upon their curs or feists to tree the marsupials, which they usually captured alive.   To get the opossum out of the tree, they would shake the tree to make it fall out.

The opossum would then be brought home in a burlap sack and then fed table scraps for several weeks to make the flesh taste better. Opossums are known carrion eaters, and it was commonly believed that the carrion diet tainted the meat.

After a few weeks of being fed table scraps,  they would slaughter the opossum.

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Eastern quolls

Source.

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