Awesome Opossum

By Cyndi Bohannon Anyone who has moved a wheelbarrow and found a hissing and spitting opossum underneath understands the jolt of adrenaline such an encounter produces. When faced with such an aggressive display, it is hard to remember that the opossum is more frightened that you. Think that opossums are disgustingly ugly? Tempted to chase them out of your flowerbeds? Don’t – they are voracious insect and grub eaters. OK - so it’s ugly. But don’t let its lack of good looks fool you, it is the single most important animal you can have in your yard. Nicknamed the living fossil by scientists, the opossum dates back to the days of the dinosaur. The name "opossum" is derived from an Algonquian Indian word "apasum", meaning white animal. The opossum’s face is usually white while the body coloration can range from almost white, through various shades of gray to black. Most of the guard hair is agouti (banded) which means that the hair starts growing one color then change color one or more times before it sheds. The only marsupial (mammal with a pouch) living in North America, the opossum is a unique and fascinating animal. The scientific name, Didelphis virginiana means “double womb” which refers to the pouch as the secondary place of fetal development. Virginiana refers to the state of Virginia where the opossum was first observed by early English colonists. Opossums are born after a gestation period of only thirteen days. Blind, embryonic in appearance, and about the size of a bee, the newborn opossum crawls unaided to its mother's pouch, where it attaches to a nipple. The nipple completely fills the tiny opossum's mouth, firmly attaching it to its mother. The opossum [...]

By |August 20th, 2009|Categories: Opossum, Species Article|Tags: , , |2 Comments

9 Banded Armadillo – The Texas Tank

Nine Banded Armadillo - The Texas Tank by Cyndi Bohannon Until I became a wildlife rehabilitator, my experience with armadillos was limited to squished little bodies on country roads, one bouncing through a soccer field and my great-grandmother’s macabre but fascinating armadillo skin basket.  Somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew they were mammals, but it was hard to imagine those armor plated little tanks reproducing, much less giving birth to live young and nursing them. Like the under-appreciated opossum, the armadillo came along very early in the evolutionary timeline and hasn’t changed significantly since. The armadillo’s most distinctive feature is its armor plating, however its sticky tongue, reproductive behaviors and methods of crossing bodies of water are strange enough to amaze. The nine banded armadillo is so named for the nine “plates” or scutes in-between the larger anterior (shoulder) and posterior (hip) scutes. The tough connective skin between the scutes makes it appear to be able to curl into a ball, however only one of the twenty species is capable of this feat. The bony plates can not grow and are not shed or molted, so young are born with soft plates that slowly harden until it is full grown at approximately a year old. Armadillos are primarily insectivores, showing preference for grubs, beetles and ants. However, when insects are not as plentiful, the armadillo shifts to a diet of berries and other vegetable material, small amphibians and carrion maggots. The armadillo is often accused preying on ground nesting birds and their eggs. While a hungry armadillo won’t turn down an egg breakfast, reports show that ground birds and their eggs constitute less than 0.04% of their overall diet. The armadillo has [...]

By |August 20th, 2009|Categories: Armadillo, Species Article|Tags: , , |1 Comment
Go to Top