One of the oldest, ugliest, orneriest, oddest creatures in North America is the opossum. Looking like a giant rat, eating virtually anything, and having been around since the times of the dinosaurs, this odd creature seems to be an anomaly in everything from its birth to the spelling of its name. The opossum is the only American marsupial mammal. That means the babies are born a few weeks after conception, crawl into the mother's pouch, and stay there until they are ready to go out on their own. Opossums can climb trees, burrow, withstand heat or cold, and are immune to rattlesnake venom. In their natural world, they are virtually indestructible with a high birth rate and a huge bag of tricks to discourage their enemies.
Playing possum is the trick most people know about, but it is not really a trick. The opossum has a very small brain and does not think out a fake death routine. Tests have shown that, when sufficiently traumatized, the opossum goes into shock where its body systems shut down so effectively that it appears to be dead. This is an involuntary reaction designed and programmed into its behavioral traits. We would suggest that this design speaks eloquently of a designer that gave this ugly duckling a beautiful defense system to survive in a hostile world. He may be ugly, but this seemingly smiling rodent has a lot going for it.