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Opossum Teeth - Threat Display


09.04.2007 - Opossums have the most teeth of any mammal* - 50 pointy teeth. When threatened, this slow critter often gapes its mouth open, exposing that mouth full of sharp teeth. It's just a threat display, however, and opossums very rarely bite. It's not that they lack aggressiveness, it's just that they're too stupid to even manage a bite - seriously! They just stand there with their mouths open. I've shoved thick leather gloves and sticks into this wide open mouth, and the animal does nothing. It doesn't bite. I guess it's just hoping that any aggressor will just back off at the sight of that intimidating mouth. After all, when a cottonmouth snake opens its mouth and shows its fangs, it will strike should you get too close.

I caught this opossum on a customer's roof. It was foraging there and scratching each night, perhaps looking for a way inside to the attic.  I caught it on the second night my trap was in place, and I removed it right away.  I noticed that it really liked to show its mouth, so I figured why not, and I took this photo.  I realize, looking at it, that this animal also has quite an impressive display of whiskers.

*I have since learned, thanks to you, gentle readers, that some Orca whales can have more than 50 teeth, and that the Giant Armadillo (Priodontes maximus) has 80 - 100 teeth. Who knew?

The opossum, (Didelphis virginiana) is a nocturnal animal that lives in North America. It is a marsupial, which means that the females give birth to tiny young, who grow in a pouch. These young eventually cling to the mother's back and drop off when they are large enough. Opossums are unique for many reasons. They have opposable thumbs, prehensile tails, 50 teeth, and several other unusual features. They are omnivores who eat almost anything, they have excellent immune systems, and they rarely live more than 2-3 years in the wild. They are most commonly considered a nuisance species when they live in an attic or other structure, such as under a shed, or steal pet food or threaten animals.

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