Hey guys, welcome to another OddLearning post.

Let me get to the point. I want to talk about OPOSSUMS.

(If you are wondering why i didn’t write the O in the title, it’s because since the O is silent, many people think is written as possums.)

Right now not only do I want people to know how their name is written, but I want to raise awareness for this species, as there seems to be a lot of ignorance toward them.

They are hunted, killed, and tortured for no reason and that makes me angry.

Why do I care so much?

I have raised these animals; they are smart, loving and part of our ecosystem, VERY IMPORTANT part!

So let me inform you with some very important facts about them.

Where are they from?

Opossums are a native Mexican Marsupial, found all around the country.  Sadly, only a few states promote awareness to protect them.

As you know, humans continue deforestation and expanding, destroying habitats, leaving many species homeless and Opossums are one of the most vulnerable in Mexico.

The need to survive has brought them to explore the urban areas where they are exposed to great dangers.

There is six known species of Opossums from Mexico

  1. Mexican Marmosa (LC)
    •  Known as Marmosa mexicana is a small to moderate-sized reddish-brown marsupial, varying from bright to dull coloration.
    • This opossum is found in forests, including the lowland tropical rainforest, the dry deciduous forest, the cloud forest, and plantations, as well as in grassland
  2. Chironectes minimus (LC)
    • Known as Water Opossum or Yapok, is the only living marsupial in which both sexes have a pouch.
    • The animal lives in bank side burrows, emerging after dusk to swim and search for fish, crustaceans and other aquatic animals, which it eats on the bank.
    • The water opossum seems to have a history dating as far back as to the Pliocene Epoch.
  3. Didelphis virginiana (LC)
    • Known as the North American Opossum.
    • This species of opossums have 50 teeth, more than any other North American land mammal.
    • They also have 13 nipples, arranged in a circle of 12 with one in the middle.
  4. Didelphis marsupialis (LC)
    • Called the Southern or Black-eared Opossum, Gambá or Manicou.
    • This opossum is sometimes used for food in islands in the West Indies by humans.
    • Their activity is mainly nocturnal and terrestrial, with some arboreal exploration and nesting.
    • Outside of mating they are usually solitary.
    • This opossum lives for around 2.5 years.
  5. Caluromys derbianus (LC)
    • Derby’s woolly opossum or the Central American Woolly Opossum.
    • It’s the largest in its genus, with a total length of 60 to 70 centimetres (24 to 28 in) and weight between 200 and 400 grams (7.1 and 14.1 oz).
    • It used to be targeted for its fur.
    • The IUCN classifies it as least concern (LC), given its presumably large numbers, populations in Ecuador and Mexico, however, are threatened by deforestation.
  6. Philander opossum (LC)
    • Also known as The gray four-eyed opossum
    • It has a sharply defined white spot above each eye, hence the name
    • The gray four-eyed opossum does not “play dead”, instead it is aggressive and fights with potential predators.

 

What do they eat?

Opossums have a broad ability to adapt to environmental changes, and their teeth allow them to eat many different types of food, which is obtained mostly on the ground.

They can eat small insects, small animals, fruits, vegetables, and also carrion.

Their ability to digest almost anything edible gives them a broader range than a human.

Diet consists of fruits, nectar, small invertebrates and vertebrates.

They can pretty much eat anything, and they tend to encounter and eat venomous snakes.

Are they immune to Venom?

While the bites of venomous snakes may be harmful to most animals, most opossums are able to overcome the toxic effects due to its immunity to the toxins.

The immunity comes from toxin-neutralizing proteins found in opossum serum.

These proteins are produced by the opossum prior to any encounter with a venomous snake, thus this immunity is not learned but inherited.

When threatened – Play Opossum?

Most species of Opossums react to threats by aggressively hissing, screeching, and showing its teeth, but with enough stimulation, the opossum will enter a near coma. Do not mistake it, they do not feign death, this is an involuntary reaction when they become overwhelmed by fear.

They emit fluids with putrid odor which repels predators.

Their heart rate drops by half and breathing rate is slowed by 30-40%, making it very faint.

It can last up to six hours, but they are fully conscious!! Isn’t that amazing?

Others like the Gray Four Eyed Opossum will take the threat head on and others like the Mexican Marmoset will hide and be very cautious due to their smaller size.

Why are they killed?

They are considered pests due to their somewhat raccoon-like behavior.

Raiding trash cans, nesting in locations that are not suitable, and causing mayhem if encountered within a human living space, they are often trapped and killed

If they are unable to create their nesting site on their natural habitat they will go for their second option which is small dark places near the urban areas.

They are only doing this to survive!

Another reason they are killed is due to people believing they are rabid creatures. First of all, THEY ARE NOT!

Why? Guess what, Opossums are unable to contract or develop rabies due to their body temperature. They do not carry any diseases.

So now let me summarize why we should spread awareness and protect these species:

1 – They are not a threat to you. They are more scared of you than you are from them.

2 – They do not carry any diseases, if they bite you, then you might get an infection due to the bacteria in their mouth, since they eat carrion.

But, on the contrary, Opossums eat bugs that can transmit harmful diseases to humans. Have you hear of Kissing bugs?

Kissing Bugs, also known as Triatominae are the spreader of Chagas Disease also known as American Trypanosomiasis, it’s a parasitic disease.

And Opossums are the ones that can control the population of these bugs, how about that?

3 – Not only are they resistant to snake venom (Studies have shown they can stand up to 80 bites from venomous snakes) but they eat them as well.

     Would you rather be bitten by a venomous snake, or let this little marsupial mind its own business while you are sleeping?

4 – The only reason they are going through your garbage is for the need to survive. If you have fruit trees they will go for the fallen fruits. They will anything as long as it means increasing the chances of their survival.

I will mention that they do have a preference for blood, thus the many complaints of farmers in rural areas when they find their dead chickens, but a curious fact about it is that they only want the blood, leaving the meat intact. No Chupacabras, just a thirsty Opossum.

5 – They are nocturnal, so you will rarely see them in the day.

But if you do, just make sure it can’t go into the road or any threat to it, they can barely see with light and they move very slowly, specially the moms carrying up to 12 babies on their backs.

6 – They have thumbs, so they are great climbing trees.

7 – Opossums are living fossils, they have been around since the Mesozoic Era! Perhaps, the oldest family of mammals walking on earth to this day.

8 – It was the first animal taken back to Europe during the colonization of America, during the XVI century.

9 – It was considered a symbol of Fertility, perhaps due to how they carry their babies on their pouch.

10-Have you ever heard of the legend of how Prometheus gave mankind fire? Stealing it from the gods even if it meant he would spend eternity being devoured by a giant eagle, well for the old Mesoamerican culture the legend involved an Opossum, stealing the fire with its tail and hiding it in its pouch.

(I think I might need to write a post of all the Legends Opossums have, they are a big part of the old cultures in Latin America)

 

Now that I shared some facts about them, what do you think?

I hope more people learn about Opossums, as they are greatly mistreated and we should take care of them.

If you want more information on these amazing creatures please let us know! We will be happy to answer you!

 

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