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View Full Version : Do possums faint or play dead?



Tom Mazanec
2015-Mar-27, 10:20 PM
In other words, is it voluntary or involuntary?

grant hutchison
2015-Mar-27, 10:53 PM
In other words, is it voluntary or involuntary?Bit of both. They have high parasympathetic tone, as you might see during a vasovagal attack (faint), but seem to be able to adjust the "depth of apparent death" according to whether they perceive the threat level to be increasing or decreasing - the higher the apparent threat, the higher the vagal tone and the slower the heart rate.

Physiological responses associated with feigned death in the American opossum (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3993399):

During death feigning the animal was fully conscious as was evident by heart rate reduction during the re-approach of the dog.
Grant Hutchison

Buttercup
2015-Mar-27, 11:07 PM
Maybe they're hallucinogenating. :o

grapes
2015-Mar-28, 03:16 AM
I've seen them "recover" almost immediately when the threat is removed.

Tom Mazanec
2015-Mar-28, 06:05 PM
I know you people do not like apocryphal reports, but if this isn't true than it should be:
A man was walking in the forest and came across a "dead" possum lying on the path. He took a stick and moved it a couple feet over. The possum got up, walked back to where it had been, lay down in the same position, and resumed playing dead!

Torsten
2015-Mar-28, 11:32 PM
I lived for a brief time in a little cabin that had a wood stove in the basement. One morning in the summer, after a wild thunderstorm the evening before, I noticed sounds coming from downstairs. Some animal was in there again (there'd been a weasel there in the winter). The sound was coming from inside the stove. I opened the door and out flew a bird. The space was small, with storage boxes on shelves lining the walls. The bird, covered in soot, retreated between two boxes, backed up against the wall. I put on gloves and reached in to get it so I could bring it outdoors. As I did, it died, or so I thought. I felt awful for the poor thing. I carried its limp body outside, and while thinking of where to dispose of it, it flew out of my hands.

Trebuchet
2015-Mar-29, 12:30 AM
We've seen "dead" birds on the deck several times lately. Probably because of having flown into the window. Most of them squat there for a while then recover enough to go away. Not all, however. Sometimes the neighborhood cats come by...

LookingSkyward
2015-Mar-31, 09:03 PM
I've had a number of encounters with possums, and have never seen one do the 'playing possum' thing. Hissing, yes. Scuttling away, yes. I kinda hope I get to see their party piece some time :)

Swift
2015-Apr-01, 02:00 AM
I've had a number of encounters with possums, and have never seen one do the 'playing possum' thing. Hissing, yes. Scuttling away, yes. I kinda hope I get to see their party piece some time :)
I sort of saw it once.

I was hiking in a National Park in Louisiana and rested for some minutes sitting at a picnic table. As I walked away from the table I heard some noise and turned to see a possum running away from the table. I suspect he was under there the whole time I was sitting, playing possum, and I never noticed. When he thought he could make a break for it, he did.