Friday, January 29, 2010

Photo Puzzle: Day 5

Ok, here's your last chance to guess (or guess correctly) before we reveal the entire photo.



Today's image is way too easy. 

Wiry, gray hair + round, pink nose + small, rounded ears + long, naked tail = ?

Of course, its a Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana)



This is North America's only marsupial (or pouched) mammal.  They are nocturnal by habit and are omnivorous eaters.  The long, hairless tail is prehensiled and capable of grasping tree branches for safety as it climbs trees.  The inner most digit on each of the back feet is opposable and functions much like our thumb, which is another adaptation for climbing.  To play "possum" is to pretend to be dead.  This behavioral trait is employed by opossums as a means of escaping harm by potential predators or curious dogs.  Opossums often fall prey to cars due to they're relatively slow, awkward running style and poor reaction to bright car headlights.

This photo is of an opossum I discovered on the front porch of the Naturalist's cottage here at the sanctuary.  I'm not sure why he climbed up onto the arm of the chair and onto my butterfly net, but he seemed bashful and ashamed for doing so as I took his picture that evening.  After a few minutes of portrait time, I went back inside to allow it to go on its way.  I've seen an opossum, presumably the same one, on a handful of occasions around the house since the evening of our photo shoot.  Hopefully this one will stay out of the road and escape the disasterous fate of the opossums and skunks that have visited me in the past.

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist

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