One man’s roadkill is another’s marsupial muse. In a multi-part blog post he’s calling his “opossum opus,” Jason Bittel, of the blog Bittel Me This, describes in detail why he “geeks out” about opossums. The highlights are below.
In his first post, Bittel describes how opossums are survival machines: They eat almost anything and are resistant to most toxins. He describes his interpretation of what happened in the lab when scientists threw everything they could find at a rat dosed with the opossum’s antitoxin proteins:
“Dude,” said one scientist, “we have to kill these rats. Do you watch AMC’s Breaking Bad?” The other scientists nodded of course because everybody watches Breaking Bad. So next they tried to kill the rats with Ricin, an extremely lethal poison made from castor beans. Alas, the ricin was a no-go.
The now-snooty rats danced Ring Around the Rosie.
“That’s it!” screeched the lead scientist. “It’s time to release the botulinum toxin. Surely this will conquer the awkward opossum’s super serum!” But after many maniacal laughs and a few bolts of lightning, the rats were still alive.
In part two, Bittel creeps us out with some down and dirty opossum sex talk. Apparently, male opossums have a two-pronged penis, which perfectly matches up with the female’s forked vagina and twin uteri. About 12 weeks after mating the opossums give birth to up to 50 young:
The marsupial birth canal (officially called the “median” or “pseudo-vaginal canal”) springs up out of nowhere like the Room of Requirement in Harry Potter.
Essentially, the connective tissue down there just sort of splits around the young opossums, creating a shortcut from the inside to the outside. And once they’ve flown the coop, the median simply seals back up until the next pregnancy.
Did you know that possums and opossums aren’t equal? Yeah, me either. Until I read Bittle’s third opossum post:
Long story short: ‘Opossum’ refers to the American opossums (like Didelphis virginiana) ‘Possum’ refers to numerous marsupials throughout Australia and the surrounding island.
Check out the posts for more opossum facts, and some pretty awesome videos. My favourite is below.
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