Friday, 12 May 2017

Creature feet, yeah!

Several possums visit the house in the evening. They're curious individuals, concerned neither by my presence nor my threats. One has even taken to climbing the screen door, trying to find a way in. The same possum brings her youngster around — he's too big to clamber onto her back — and I often see his little pink nose pressed against the glass. The rest of him is invisible in the dark.

Because the possums are unafraid to the point of insolence...

Ripe bananas are a good lure for leading possums out of the house

...I can get close enough to take photos. And I am fascinated by possum feet.

Here Poss is holding onto his hind foot instead of the dish. I'm not sure if he's uncoordinated or just embarrassed by the state of his nails.

Possum hind feet exhibit the syndactyly characteristic of diprotodontid marsupials: the second and third toes are fused, while the claws remain separate to form a grooming comb.

This condition also occurs in kangaroos, koala, and their ilk. You'll often see them scratching with their hind feet and then nibbling at whatever's caught between the claws. It's not elegant, but it is convenient. 

One of the ilk

The big toe is more or less opposable, so is handy* for climbing. (See above.) (No, above in the post. The blog post. This is getting confusing.) It lacks a claw, but all the other digits have long and very sharp claws, which are particularly good for scrambling up fly screens and posts. (Steel posts, not blog po...oh, never mind.)

He's spotted a brush-turkey. He hates them.

The other day, I noticed these long hairs on Poss' front legs. They look like the carpal whiskers on cats and might have a similar function. I haven't tested this. But next time Poss is nose-deep in the seed tray, I'll give it a go and report what happens.

He could have wiped his nose for the photo

* heh

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