Friday, June 9, 2017

Unlikely Heroes, Unlovely Heroes

One of the major regional stories here is a projected bad season for the spread of Lyme disease- the winter was mild, so the ticks which are vectors for the disease are expected to experience a population explosion.

There is hope, and help, though, from an unexpected source... the Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana), an unlovely animal unloved by most people, is a veritable tick vacuum- ticks will attach themselves to 'possums in order to suck their blood, and the 'possums will groom themselves and eat the ticks attached to them. Opossums are somewhat resistant to pathogens which affect placental mammals, such as rabies, probably because they have relatively low body temperatures.

While homely and pretty stupid, opossums thrive in spite of their deficiencies, being the only marsupials in temperate North America and the most successful migrant resulting from the Great American Interchange. Not only are they survivors, but they have been found to be 'helpers'. I have a fondness for the goofy things, and as a guy who spends a lot of time outdoors, a feeling of gratitude as well.

1 comment:

Smut Clyde said...

pathogens which affect placental mammals, such as rabies

Birds can catch rabies too, B^4! Just that they're usually asymptomatic. Also they can't spread it, because no salivary glands.