Nature

Praising L.A's marsupial immigrants

OpossumGarden expert Lili Singer acknowledges that the opossums that roam Los Angeles at night look like bloated rats, but she's a fan nonetheless. The first Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) was recorded here in 1906, and "like little dust busters, they cruise the landscape, round ears tilted like satellite dishes, fleshy pink snoots to the ground. They feast on snails and slugs, perhaps even a cockroach or two." Her piece in today's LAT Home section goes on:

Gardeners may blame opossums for the messes and mischief made by rambunctious raccoons, skunks and squirrels rooting out insect grubs, but the reality is that opossums don't dig. They can't. The soft pink skin on their paws is too delicate for such manual labor; their weak nails are built for tree-climbing.

Though opossums are excellent at scaling trunks, they rarely sample the fruit above. Instead, they might salvage a fallen peach or munch avocados knocked down by squirrels. Opossums prefer their produce at ground level and well rotted all the easier to sniff out as they forage the night garden.

If Darwin was right about natural selection, future generations should get pretty good at not becoming roadkill.

Photo: Corbis via L.A. Times


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