National Geographic : 1953 Mar
Charles Philip Fox himself out of traps and almost any confining pen or cage. Four teeth are tusks which he uses for tearing meat, cracking bones, or breaking wire and gnawing boards. The opossum has more teeth than any other of our land mammals. In spite of his small size he has a larger mouth than man (p. 409). He might be living proof that small brain capacity and a big mouth go together. Hard to Tell Sexes Apart We have always been interested in the domestic life of Mr. and Mrs. Possum, but possums keep their private life private. The fact is, there is no evidence except the large litters to show that there is any love life. The naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton wrote: "The possum is a strictly solitary ani mal; no one has yet reported two adults to gether, even during the breeding season."* Never in our observation have we seen two grown opossums side by side. Once we got a picture of two on the same negative, but they gave no sign of being acquainted or even remotely interested in being introduced to each other. Except for the times when the mother's pouch is so full of children that it almost drags on the ground, it is impossible for us to tell the male from the female, even though from long observation we know each face and form and can always tell when we have a new visitor or when one long absent returns. When Mr. Possum walks, his gait is slow, deliberate, and heavy; he trots awkwardly along. But he can hurry if he has to. Once we saw a full-grown animal go lickety-split. His entire foot rests on the ground, making a track similar to that of a baby's footprint. This classifies him as a plantigrade. Each foot has five toes; with the exception of a well-defined "thumb" on each hind foot, all toes have claws. Thumbs and claws, with the aid of a suction pad on each foot, help him to grasp limbs and branches on which he makes his way to the very tops of trees. * Lives of Game Animals, Vol. IV, Part II, Double day & Company, Inc., New York, 1929, page 884.