Why Are Opossums Awesome?



Today's adulthood. episode is brought to you by smart water twenty years ago. Smart water, reimagined, what water could be from thoughtful bottle designed to supporting smart people who are changing our world through fresh thinking. Like, you smart water has added electrolytes for taste and great tasting water helps you stay hydrated, feeling refreshed and ready to take on your day. Refresh yourself with smart water. Welcome to brain stuff from how stuff works. Hey, bring stuff Lauren Vogel bomb here. If you live in North America, you've probably seen Virginia a possum, classification Delta's Virginia. Ana maybe the unfortunate creature was dead on the road. Or maybe it was very much alive on your porch. Eating garbage in the middle of the night. But in either case, you might have thought. Oh, gross a possum, but you would have been off base on several counts. First of all possums live in Australia, and are also a marsupial, which means they raise their young in a pouch like a kangaroo, but they're completely different species than the animal currently snuggling with a half eaten bag of Doritos at the bottom of curbside trash can in North Carolina, which is correctly. And a possum we spoke with Richard offs. Feld senior scientists at the institute of ecosystem studies in Millbrook New York. He said folks get very confused about this. I've had people tell me triumphantly that they discovered building plans for possum nestboxes, and they planned to install dozens of them to encourage possums to multi. Play on their property. But when I looked at the plans, they were designed for brush tailed possums in Austria completely useless for possums in North America. So with that part settled opossums, aren't that gross? Even if they wouldn't mind taking that moldy pad Thai from the back of your refrigerator off of your hands. They may look a little creepy. What would that long hairless prehensile tail the mouthful of haphazard teeth in the beady eyes, but opossums are the studiously groomed and most likely disease free wildlife heroes of your neighborhood. It's a common misconception possibly prompted by their bumbling swagger that opossums often carry rabies or distemper. In fact, they rarely get these diseases because their body temperature is too low to make them susceptible. Not only do opossums not carry these diseases. The presence of an apostle in your yard is your best bet for combating lime disease. A two thousand nine study explored whether black legged ticks the disease vector for Lyme disease might be regulated by wildlife that they parasite ties of fifteen forest welling, mammals and ground. Nesting birds opossums were the only ones to destroy the vast. Already of all of the black legged ticks the tried to feed on them. Over ninety five percent us feld who co-authored. The study said our calculations indicated that a single possum is capable of killing several thousand larval ticks per week during the late summer peak. We also know that of those ticks that do successfully feed on on a possum only small fraction will become infected with the lime disease bacterium so opossums are protective in two ways killing ticks and preventing infection. A study by the same research team published in July of two thousand eighteen in the journal ecology found the tick-borne disease risk was reduced in areas. Where possums were present. For an animal that does more than its fair share of hobbling into traffic and is known for flopping over like a corpse at the merest whiff of danger opossums are perhaps surprisingly intelligent to begin with weak eyesight at a nocturnal nature, both contribute to the fact that you're probably more familiar with the site of a debt possum that alive. One. In addition, their primary defense mechanism playing dead is almost entirely involuntary a reaction to extreme stress that leaves the apartment coma for a few minutes to a couple of hours and a coma at possum can take a beating that would kill other animals their size. This then is a great strategy. If your mortal enemy is a bear. But not so great if it's Toyota. So if for example, your dog corners and a possum one night in the backyard. Don't worry the possum may listen show its teeth attempt to look scary because it's frightened. But the last thing wants is to tangle with your four legged friend, it will invariably lay down and play dead until the threat gets bored and passes opossums are non-aggressive docile creatures far more afraid than they are to be feared, and they're also studiously clean alike. Cats opossums are constantly grooming themselves with their paws and tongue partly in order to make sure they're parasite free. But also keep themselves. Cool. They lack sweat glands. So grooming is like a possum air conditioning. And they do it to keep themselves smelling like well, nothing as we established possums aren't great at protecting themselves in a standoff with a predator. So it behooves them to stay odor. Neutral, part of the reason of possums have the reputation for being smelly has to do with one other defense mechanism the smell of death. A once in a possum goes into its theatrical coma if. Predator continues to mess with it. The apostle may excrete smelling mucous from glands in its anus. This has been to signal. Hey, this possum is definitely dead and possibly so entirely dead that it'll make you sorry, you ate it. Speaking of opossums are really smart about what they eat. Because it turns out they have great memories. Once in a possum tastes, a chemical. That doesn't agree with it. Will remember avoid the smell of it for a year afterwards, though, opossums are immune to some things that would poison other mammals, including most snake venoms possums are biologically fascinating, which led to some confusion among early Europeans in the new world. Their story was the male possum made it through the female opossums snout, which led to her sneezing out her babies into her marsupial pouch. Of course, this is not scientifically accurate, but possums definitely do things a little differently. First of all a male. Possum has a forked penis, but it's not meant for the females nostrils female opossums have double vagina and twin utera possum embryos develop for about thirteen days until they're large enough to migrate down the birth canal and emerge about size of house flies to continue developing in the mother's pouch. Although dozens of them. We'll be born the mother only has thirteen teats. So that's probably how many will be able to survive into

Coming up next