Sept. 30, 2022


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This podcast episode we talk about the Opossum! Relax, unwind, and join me in the forest, where we learn all about North America's only marsupial.


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hello everyone welcome back to relax with animal facts I am Steph wolf and today I am going to be learning with you about our furry scaly or possibly even slimy friends and in today's case it is definitely going to be a furry friend of ours because we are covering the %HESITATION so wonderful opossum this is of course a very very special listener episode dedicated to Kristin Hannah gray Sylvia Juliana and Elena thank you all for taking the time to write in and for such a great suggestion I hope you enjoy your very own episode thank you all for taking the time to write in and for requesting such a cool animal if you would like your very own podcast episode and to learn about a cool critter that you find interesting you can request an animal in one of three ways you can send a message to the Instagram relax with animal facts you can go to relax with animal facts dot com and click on the animal request tab and lastly you could always email relax with animal facts at the G. mail dot com I love getting all of your messages and finding out which cool creatures you want to learn about so don't be shy and be sure to reach out for those of you that love the show and would like more of it along with intro free and ad free versions of this podcast there is a podcast patrie on rely X. with animal facts all of the tears are exactly the same so however much you give which can be as little as a dollar a month still gives you full access to series like mythological animals extinct animals all of the super cool series the way to get there is in the description or you can just go to patron dot com slash relax with animal facts I'm just going to say where I got my facts from and we can get straight into the episode all of these websites are dot com farmers almanac how the heart National Geographic mental floss and at him online all of those resources are in the description and this episode would not have been possible without their contributions and now I would like for all of you to notice where you were carrying some tension is it in the neck the head the shoulders arms who knows maybe you ran a marathon today in your legs or super sore regardless of what it is in my case it is my hands as it always is we do not really need all of that tension where we are going because we are going into the forests where the opossum resides now one thing is very important for us to address right from the beginning there might be some who say isn't the first letter in opossum supposed to be silent or maybe isn't it supposed to be pronounced %HESITATION possum it seems as though it is a bit of a misconception that the first letter of a possum is supposed to be silent silent like say D. K. in no %HESITATION or knowledge but according to our modern dictionaries they seem to be unanimous in describing the pronunciation of this word as a possum in order to distinguish it from a creature known as possible there is a creature with that distinction that is in Australia and so to make sure that we know we are talking about the same creature especially for those Australian listeners out there so that is why I am saying opossum as opposed to just possum now in North America the word opossum and possum or used very interchangeably and describe the same creature and the most common or well known opossum that we find in North America is the Virginia opossum and these critters are in fact the only marsupials found north of Mexico now here's that word again marsupial if we remember say from the wall the B. or from the kangaroo episode we might remember what that distinction means the opossum is a marsupial because they are mammals that carry and nurse their young in pouches is and these marsupials that are in Canada and the United States or the only representative of that marsupial group we have no kangaroos no wallabies all of the cool critters are miles and miles away in Australia so the scientific name of the opossum is D. delfi day and normally as many of you know we go into that scientific name a little bit more to see how it is but this scientific name seems to be to be a bit confusing that word Delphy that is smashed in there comes from the Greek word for a dolphin and that prefix there D. usually means that it is coming away or away from something so the scientific name seems to imply that the opossum is away from a dolphin or far removed from a dolphin this word also sometimes has mythical fantastical origins but I certainly can't figure this one out but moving on from their nose to the tail they are about two and a half feet on average they will weigh between eight point eight to thirteen point two pounds that's between four and six kilograms they will survive on an omnivorous diet which we will dive a little bit deeper into in just a moment but let us first cover some other things before we circle right back into this fact I first would like to cover the fact that has made them so popular for the fact that they are most known for and that is their ability to play dead but I'm not sure if using the word ability is as descriptive as it should be or even if it is a mis characterization of this behavior the reason I say that is because the opossum cannot choose when they play dead when the animal experiences a very intense fear in the face of impending danger it will seize up and flopped to the ground automatically so we cannot really attribute the effectiveness of this behavior to some kind of inherent acting ability they do not actually have a choice to be theatrical so when a predator gets up close and the opossum it's very fearful it will seize up and flopped onto the ground where it can stay for hours and hours staring blankly ahead with its tongue sticking out and so I find it fascinating that perhaps the most popular fact about this critter is slightly misunderstood by many but regardless this involuntary reaction serves a purpose and does it very effectively it isn't enough however for the opossum to simply look at dead it will do something else also automatically to try to really sell this theatrical performance they will release a smell that can only be described as putrid in order to feign or fake the processes of a natural decomposition so when some creatures come by and they just take a little whiff of this opossum chances are they will look for their dinner somewhere else now when opossums are on the other side not as prey but rather as predators some of their prey will also be helpless in fighting back that is because they are mostly scavengers they will visit human homes or settlements to go into garbage cans and containers they also will not turn down the road kill or carrion that is lying around in addition to eating grass and nuts and fruit they will however also hunt mice and birds worms snakes insects and even chickens so this is what makes them not only scavengers but omnivores they have a tolerance for and enjoy eating nuts and fruit but also mice and insects and birds I would classify them as something opposite of a picky eater if there is such a thing as being slightly too open minded to food D. opossum would fit into that category now included in that insect diet that the builders in they are like the take cleanup crew the vastly slow down the spread of Lyme disease eating about ninety percent of the ticks that attach themselves to them according to the national wildlife federation a single opossum on average can consume five thousand picks per season so as a general rule the more opossums that are in your area the fewer takes you'll encounter that doesn't mean you will sometimes have to forfeit your trash can as their plunder these are the trade offs of being take free with the opossum maybe one of the reasons why ticks have so many opportunities to land themselves onto the opossum of course as we just learned to their utter demise is because the opossum is a very agile creature they will try to go anywhere and everywhere they are world class tree climbers with very sharp claws opposable thumbs on their hind feet and detail that his prehensile that will allow them to go on to the trunks and hang on to branches that word prehensile refers to the ability to grip so not only do they have opposable thumbs on their hind legs they have a fifth sort of grappling appendage with their tail it seems that the love tree so much that they often also nest in tree hollows now besides being very tough when it comes to takes they are also tough when it comes to snake venom they are immune to the majority of snake venom the only exception to this community is the coral snake but to virtually every other type of snake that is found in their native range they are totally immune without the sting of venom the snake becomes a quick meal for the opossum let's talk about their communication as you heard at the top of the show the do you actually make noise you usually more likely haven't heard an opossum make noises before because they are generally quiet creatures but the do in D. have sounds or Coles better procure your tip then young opossums for example will make sneezing sounds or a soft chew choon sound as if I suppose they were a little chugging train and they will often make these noises when calling out to their mother the mother will then respond not really with the Choo Choo noise but with something more of a clicking there is also one final communication and that is one of saying back off when an opossum is threatened it will sometimes his or growl now we say that they may do this because the other option sometimes it is an automatic shutdown into playing dead so I imagine that if you were hearing a his or a growl which means that they are not to stress about the situation and think they can handle it just fine the last fact before we move on to the name portion of the episode is that they are not only on numerous and exemplify a scavenger kind of diet they are also nocturnal to be nocturnal is to be the opposite of diurnal diurnal refers to creatures that are a week mostly during the daytime they hunted into all of the rest of those things with the sunshine and sleep at night nocturnal creatures will do the opposite so the opossum will be thriving in the night time and sleeping mostly during the day now let us go to the final fact of the episode which is the name where is the name of Paulson come from what does it mean so the name of possum was applied specifically to this creature around the year sixteen hundred and it comes from an old gone Quinn word or pass some which is sort of an adaptation what is equivalent to a proto Algonquian term that means white dog so we can see just by looking at this critter how white dog came to be a natural distinction for them and now let us move on to the review portion of the show this is where I read a review from a very special listener out there and in today's case this review was written by back track who wrote in all the way from the United States of America where of course the opossum resides in the back track rights my name is back in I am twenty three I am from the United States and love to listen to your podcast while I am coloring at night I'd love to learn more about dolphins happy trails happy trails to you as well back thank you for taking the time to leave such a kind review I'm so glad that you can join me in this season on the mountains we just have to make sure that when we're in the oceans you bring maybe a zip lock bag because coloring there might be a bit challenging in terms of the animal suggestion dolphin has actually already been covered but only in a general way if there is a specific kind of dolphin or even if you have a nother suggestion feel free to reach out to the show all the view including back can reach the show by sending a C. H. to relax with animal facts on Instagram by going to relax with animal facts dot com and going to the animal request tab or you could always send an email to relax with animal facts at two G. mail dot com as a listener did last week and is back this week I suppose you can also request your animals through reviews that is also possible now if you want to continue this trek into the forest but perhaps to sea creatures that have not been on the planet for some time you can join me on the extinct animal mini series that is currently going on on the P. Treon relax with animal facts I hope to see you all there so we can continue going deeper into this forest thank you all for joining me for this podcast episode I am so glad that we got to cover the opossum I hope you will all join me on the next podcast episode with the next animal take care