Lizards and Tail-loss and Regeneration, oh my!

Can you imagine all the things we could do if we had a tail? Well, we once did have a tail. In utero, babies start with a tail; tails get smaller and fuse into our vertebrae, creating our “tail-bone” around eight weeks. We miss out on some extraordinary abilities once we no longer have a tail. For animals, having a tail can provide balance, navigation, communication, mating rituals, marking territory, and defense. 

Let’s talk about defense.  Some lizards are notorious for losing their tails (autotomy) when humans or other animals attempt to catch them.  I remember catching a green anole in my backyard as a kid. I was so excited to catch it but saw its tail come off as I grabbed it. The tail was then on the ground, still kind of wiggling around. As a child, that can seem pretty scary or even creepy, but it’s interesting that the lizard has this ability. Lizards have learned that they can save themselves from predators through the art of distraction. 

When predators chase lizards, their tails can detach from their bodies; as the tail wiggles around on the ground, it directs the predator’s attention to the tail instead of them. Juvenile skinks (as pictured on the left) have a bright blue tail that is easily noticeable to predators. Although that might sound counteractive, luckily for skinks, their tail is expendable, and the skink can walk away unharmed. Once the tail has dropped, the lizard can regenerate its tail. However, the regenerated tail isn’t a replica of the original. 

Now, if lizards can release their tails when faced with a predator, what happens when they encounter another one? How many times can a lizard release and regenerate its tail? Regeneration requires cells that will develop into tissues that become new muscles, cartilage, tendons, and eventually a regrown tail. Most lizards can live about 4 years or so, depending on the food, water, shelter, and predators. Depending on how big the lizard is and how healthy they are, it can take anywhere from a month to over a year to have a tail regenerate. So, if the lizard survives those months without a tail as it goes through the regeneration process, one single lizard can potentially drop and regenerate a few tails in its lifetime. 

Next time you visit the River Legacy Nature Center and walk the trails, look for lizards like the ones in the images below. If you notice a brown patchy tail that doesn’t seem to match the rest of the body, or just looks like they’re missing a tail, they are in the regeneration process, and a new tail is on the way. 

There is so much more to learn about lizards! Our upcoming visiting exhibit Here Be Dragons: From Lizards to Legends will feature 6 live lizards so visitors can learn about these legendary creatures up close and personal. Mark your calendars for November 19th and get ready to explore different realms, encounter living legends, and discover unique artifacts at the River Legacy Nature Center.

Visit our website for more details www.riverlegacy.org/here-be-dragons

Written by Sarah Morris, Naturalist.

Cicadas: What is up with that sound?

Around this time of the year, the woods of River Legacy start producing a very peculiar sound. It is loud and generally described as a high-pitched buzzing sound. The origin of this sound is one of the most intriguing and well-known inhabitants of River Legacy: the cicada. It is quite likely that you have heard this sound before. It forms an integral part of the summer experience in North America. Let’s delve more into cicadas and the sound they produce.

Cicadas are insects that belong to the order Hemiptera, a very big and diverse order of insects known collectively as the “true bugs and relatives.” This makes cicadas distant relatives to insects such as aphids, stink bugs, shield bugs, leafhoppers, and bed bugs–yes, those bed bugs! There are roughly 3,000 species of cicadas and they inhabit every continent except Antarctica. In North America, there are about 200 species of cicadas. The most common species of cicadas belong to the genera Tibicen, Megatibicen, Hadoa, and Diceroprocta and are known as the dog-day cicadas. These are considered to be annual cicadas.

This means that they have a life cycle that lasts anywhere from 2 to 5 years, in general. On the other hand, species belonging to the genus Magicicada are known as the periodic cicadas, because their life cycle is very different from the others. These cicadas have either a 13-year or 17-year life cycle, so broods can remain underground for years until it is time for them to emerge. The vast majority of these cicadas can be found east of the Mississippi River. Most of the cicadas in Texas are annual cicadas though there are some members of Magicicada found in counties along the Red River, bordering Oklahoma.

The cicada sound is essentially a mating call produced by the males in order to attract a female cicada. The sound can also be used to announce an individual’s territory. The origin of this sound can be traced back to a special organ that few insects have: the tymbal organ. The male cicadas possess 2 of these, which are circle-shaped ridged membranes found on the back and side of the 1st abdominal segment of the cicada. The muscle that attaches to the tymbals contracts and bends the tymbals, which creates a clicking sound. When the muscle relaxes, they go back to their previous form. The tymbals contract so frequently (120 to 480 times a second) that it appears as a long, continuous sound to the human ear. There are air sacs in Cicadas that amplify the sound to produce the iconic cicada buzzing sound!

Cicadas are very special insects with an amazing adaptation that has made them world famous. As you take a walk through the River Legacy this summer, remember how the cicada sounds are being made as they graciously cover the woods.

Sources:

  • Bauer, Patricia. “Why are cicadas so noisy?”. Encyclopedia Britannica, Invalid Date, https://www.britannica.com/story/why-are-cicadas-so-noisy. Accessed 9 May 2022.
  • Evans, Arthur. Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America. 1st ed., New York, Sterling Publishing Company, 2008.
  • Abbott, John, and Kendra Abbott. Common Insects of Texas and Surrounding States: A Field Guide. 1st ed., Austin, University of Texas Press, 2020.
  • Drees, Bastiaan, and John Jackman. A Field Guide to Common Texas Insects. 1st ed., Houston, Gulf Publishing Company, 1998.
  • Liebhold, A. M., Bohne, M. J., and R. L. Lilja. 2013. Active Periodical Cicada Broods of the United States. USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station, Northeastern Area State and Private Forestry.

How come there are no blue or green mammals?

Have you ever thought about this? Think about it for a minute. If you were to list 10 mammals off the top of your head – perhaps animals like your dog, cat, an elephant, rat, zebra, skunk, raccoon, opossum, bobcat, or even a coyote – you would quickly realize that the colors of these mammals lack blue and green hues. There are a couple of reasons as to why this is, and why other animals like insects, birds, amphibians, and reptiles exhibit these colors quite often.

The reason has to do with chemistry primarily. First off, let’s talk about what produces colors in living things. Pigments are chemical compounds that are responsible for producing color in the biological world. When pigments absorb light, they reflect back certain wavelengths, producing colors our eyes can perceive. Plants, for example, have many different kinds of pigments with all kinds of peculiar names, such as carotenoids, flavonoids, and anthocyanins. Thousands of these chemicals have been identified by scientists and this is the reason why plants can produce a vast array of colors – from the dominant green leaves, to different shades of bark on trees, to the orange color of a carrot, the colorful fruits and flowers there are and the beautiful foliage colors we see during autumn in temperate latitudes.

When it comes to animals however, things are a bit different. The vast majority of animals simply do not have the variety of pigments that plants do. Specifically, they are not able to genetically produce blue and green pigments. Then how come we still see animals that are those colors? There’s blue butterflies, green frogs, and peacocks are well-known for their blue feathers! Most of these animals produce this color through a phenomenon known as structural coloration, which is the optical illusion of a color, essentially. Small structures of the skin scatter and reflect back light in a way so that only the blue wavelengths reach our eyes. But, in reality, there is no blue pigment doing that. When it comes to green, usually there is a yellow pigment involved with a structural blue coloration.

For instance, when a rough green snake (Opheodrys aestivus), a common River Legacy snake, dies, it turns blue because the yellow pigment is no longer being produced but the structural color is still there. Another way animals are able to produce vibrant colors is by obtaining pigments from their environment, typically their diet. This is how flamingos develop their typical pink to red hue, by eating foods like algae, shrimp, and crabs that have these pigments in them. A similar phenomenon occurs with the northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), another River Legacy common sight.

Now, let’s go back to mammals. Mammals have not been able to evolve or have lost the ability to implement pigments obtained through their diet to the same extent as other animals have. It happens but not to the same degree. This is why eating something like beets can turn the toilet a certain color when we go to the bathroom but it does not turn our skin purple. When it comes to naturally-produced pigments, mammals really only produce one kind – melanin. Melanin is an important pigment that provides protection against the sun’s damaging UV rays but it also is responsible for the majority of colors in mammalian skin. It comes in two kinds – eumelanin (responsible for black and brown colors) and pheomelanin (responsible for yellow or reddish to brown colors). Very few mammals, like mandrills (a type of African monkey), are able to produce small amounts of blue color through structural coloration.

But, how come no other mammals can? Scientists are not really sure but it may have had to do with the evolutionary history of mammals. Early mammals survived during the Mesozoic era, the golden age of the dinosaurs, by basically not being around them too much in order to avoid becoming food or by not trying to compete with them for the same resources. It is believed that most dinosaurs were active during the day so it is most likely that mammals had to turn to a largely nocturnal lifestyle. This meant that mammals did not have the need to develop adaptations that were not necessary in the night, such as the ability to see a wide range of vibrant colors. If there was no selective pressure (i.e. need) for either evolving structural coloration, pigment formation, or the ability to obtain pigments through diet, then the genes that allowed for those traits disappeared from the mammalian gene pool. The majority of animals today, with the exception of most mammals, have stellar color vision. On the other hand, as a result of their evolutionary history, mammals tend to be color-blind when it comes to blue and green colors. The big exception to this are primates – the group to which humans and mandrills belong. Therefore, it is hypothesized that as a result of all of this, the vast majority of mammals lack green or blue colors on their skin or fur.

What an incredible and fascinating subject to be sure. Next time you take a hike in the River Legacy trails and you come across a mammal – whether it be a squirrel, bobcat, or rabbit – you will know why those creatures are not flashing blue and green at you!

Dinosaurs Did Not All Go Extinct. They’re Still Around and They’re Everywhere!

Have we been duped about dinosaur extinction? Well, it turns out that we pretty much have been. Since the very first time that paleontologists have found dinosaur fossils, people have known about the existence of these prehistoric, mesmerizing, and typically large creatures. Dinosaurs dominated the biosphere of our planet during what is called the Mesozoic Era, which spanned from roughly 250 million years ago to 66 million years ago. Dinosaurs especially thrived during the Jurassic (201 million years ago to about 145 million years ago) and Cretaceous (145 million years ago to about 65 million years ago) periods of this era until they all went extinct at the end of the Cretaceous, about 65 millions years ago, very likely due to an asteroid impact. With this tragedy, the impressive reign of the once mighty dinosaurs came to a close. Or, so we thought…

The fossil of Archaeopteryx, a feathered dinosaur from the Jurassic where the wings can be clearly seen.
Northern cardinal, a modern-day River Legacy dinosaur.

However, it turns out that not all dinosaurs went extinct! Around 150 millions years ago, during the Jurassic period, a group of small, feathered theropod dinosaurs (dinosaurs that are characterized by hollow bones and three toes and includes famous dinosaurs such as members of the genera Tyrannosaurus, Carnotaurus, Spinosaurus, and Velociraptor) evolved into a group of animals we are very much familiar with, the birds. That is exactly right. Your backyard northern cardinal, the woodpecker you saw on your last hike through River Legacy, and your pet parakeet are all very distant cousins of the T-Rex and raptors from those ancient times! The similarities between these enigmatic animals of the past and our feathered friends abound. For instance, the presence of feathers, a key feature of birds, in dinosaurs such as members of the genus Archaeopteryx has been long documented. Research has also shown similarities between dinosaur and bird skeletons, particularly in the neck, pelvic, and pectoral areas. Behavioral similarities between birds and dinosaurs have been documented as well, ranging from brooding and caring for offspring, to similar sleeping posture, to the ingestion of gizzard stones which are stones that aid in digestion in birds and other animals. In 2008, another proof of the link between dinosaurs and birds emerged: the discovery pointing to the presence of air sacs, another key characteristic of birds, in the genus Aerosteon, a theropod dinosaur from Argentina.

Southern cassowary, a modern-day Australian dinosaur, that is more reminiscent of a Velociraptor.
Tyrannosaurus
Velociraptor

Even as the mighty dinosaurs took their last breath in the aftermath of the late Cretaceous impact event, a small but persistent group of theropod dinosaurs managed to escape catastrophe, survived the extinction event, and eventually flourished and evolved into an amazing diversity of roughly 10,000 bird species found today, from the wild turkey to the turkey vulture, from the hummingbird to the ostrich, from the blue jay to the mallard duck.


Do you and your family want to experience more of the world of dinosaurs, birds’ long-extinct distant cousins? River Legacy Nature Center is excited to present Dinosaur Safari, a traveling exhibit that is open NOW and will run through February 12th, 2022. Come immerse yourself back in the Mesozoic as you learn more about our prehistoric past and experience life-sized dinosaur models, while children get hands-on experience in investigating the clues these animals left behind. Click here to learn more about this limited time exhibit.

Dinosaur Safari is created by Omaha Children’s Museum.

3 Things that You Can Start Doing Right Now to Reduce your Environmental Impact

We all know how tricky and expensive it can be to alter your daily routine and make changes to reduce your environmental impact. While making those big changes are great, we all need an easy place to start! Here’s what you can do right now to help our planet:

Western Hampshire of Earth
Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org
Western Hampshire of Earth
Credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org

1. Delete those old emails! That email sitting in your spam folder for an expired 20% off coupon to a store you shopped at once surprisingly has a negative impact on the environment. While emails may seem like an eco-friendly alternative to traditional mail since there is no physical waste of paper, the process of sending and storing emails on servers uses electricity, and oftentimes that electricity is created with fossil fuels that release carbon emissions into the atmosphere. It is estimated that just one email can create 0.3 to 50 grams of carbon dioxide. To put that in perspective a paper clip is about 1 gram, so while 0.3 of that may seem like a small number those emails add up!

Insect on a yellow flower
Insect on a yellow flower

2.Cut the strings on your disposable masks when you throw them away. A lot of us have heard about cutting up the plastic soda can holders and this same practice can be used on the ear loops of the single-use face masks. When these strings are left uncut and they find their way into the environment,  animals can get stuck and tied up in the strings. This can really hurt that animal as it may limit their movement if they need to search for food or make a quick escape from a predator. 

3. Stop idling your car in drive through lanes. The next time you’re in the drive-through lane picking up your coffee consider turning your car off in between moving forward. Some newer cars already do this on their own! If you speculate that you will be idling your car in a drive through lane for longer than 10 seconds, you are saving yourself gas and reducing carbon emissions by turning your car off and then restarting before pulling forward. An alternative to this would simply be parking and going in to place your order so that your car can be completely shut off while you make your purchases. 

The idea behind this blog post is to inform the reader on ways that they can make small changes in their life to make an impact. If you have more suggestions please comment on one of our posts we’d love to hear your ideas!

Samantha King
Naturalist

What’s Blooming at River Legacy?

After a week stuck indoors from the snowstorm that hit us mid February, we are all excited to see some first glimpses of spring. While some plants may have suffered from the cold, we are seeing a lot of plants that benefited from the precipitation. Come to River Legacy and see if you can find these 5 plants that are blooming NOW!

Eastern Redbud

1. Redbud. This plant is a member of the legume family which means it grows bean pods. The flowers that are blooming now will bloom for a total of 2-3 weeks and are a bright magenta color that becomes a light pink over time. When the red bud’s leaves emerge they are heart shaped, look reddish and slowly change to a dark green and are about 2- 6 inches long. If you plant this tree in your yard you can attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and honey bees!

Wood Violet

2. Wood Violet. This small flower can be seen directly off of the trail and comes in many different shades of purple, blue, and even white. Wood violets have heart shaped leaves that are a good source of vitamins A and C. However, don’t eat the wood violets you see in the park because eating the wrong plant can cause some serious illnesses!  

Bedstraw on pant leg

3. Bedstraw. This plant is very abundant and is in the same family as coffee! Bedstraw, commonly called catchweed, has tiny hooks that act like Velcro. If you get close enough to this plant while walking by it may hitch a ride on your pant leg or your dog’s hair. 

Mexican Plum

4. Mexican Plum. This tree has snowy white flowers that appear in clusters before the leaves develop. While the flowers resemble snow, the blooming of this tree in March has traditionally meant that for Texans winter is over! Phew, that’s good news! *wipes sweat off brow* Like the name of this tree suggests, there are plums that ripen in late summer that are great for attracting birds and fruit eating mammals.

Golden Groundsel

5. Golden groundsel. This plant is one of the earliest bloomers of the year. If you come to River Legacy Living Science Center you will notice plenty of these yellow flowers in our parking lot now! When this plant goes to seed it forms a white fluff that helps disperse the seeds, like dandelions. Because of this, it is said that the botanist who named this flower was reminded of their grandpa and so the golden groundsel is often referred to as “Old Man.”

Some of these gorgeous blooms can only be seen for a few weeks so make sure to get out and stop by River Legacy to experience these spring blooms!

Samantha King
Naturalist

What’s Up with Tarantulas Having Bald Butts?

Brazilian Black and White Tarantula
(Nhandu coloratovillosus)
shows off two bald patches on abdomen where urticating hairs have been flicked

If you have visited River Legacy Science Center recently and had the opportunity to see the 100 arachnids in The Art and Science of Arachnids traveling exhibit, you may have noticed some tarantulas with bald patches on their bottoms (aka abdomens). What could the reason for this possibly be?

A lot of animals have defense mechanisms; opossums play dead, lizards lose tails, even humans have fight or flight reactions to avoid danger. When you think of a tarantula’s defense mechanisms your first thought is probably their bites and/or venom. However, they also have urticating hairs located on their abdomen. Urticating hairs are thorny bristles that can be flicked by the back legs that can then lodge themselves in the attacker’s skin and cause an allergic reaction. One way these hairs are used is as a passive defense. Tarantulas place the urticating hairs in the egg sac to protect it from other arthropods looking for a snack. Urticating hairs are also used as an active defense against predators. When used for active defense, the tarantula uses its back legs to flick the hairs from the abdomen into the air thus forming a flying cloud of ouchie! If these predators are unlucky and any of the hairs make contact with their skin it can cause an uncomfortable rash. This rash is meant to deter predators from eating the tarantula. When tarantulas molt to grow in size the lost urticating hairs are replaced along with any legs that may have been lost!

Mexican Red Knee Tarantula
(Brachypelma smithi) 
has all urticating hairs intact

When you check out The Art and Science of Arachnids exhibit, you may notice that not all of the tarantulas have this bald patch. While some of the tarantulas have a calmer temperament and simply do not flick the hairs as often, there are also some that do not have any hairs to flick. Tarantulas can be divided into two groups; old world and new world. This classification refers to the parts of the world the tarantulas come from. Old world being from Asia, Australia, Africa, and Europe, and the new world being North and South America. The classification also refers to a few other characteristics, including those urticating hairs we talked about. Almost all new world tarantulas have urticating hairs and old world tarantulas do not. 

If you haven’t had the opportunity to see The Art and Science of Arachnids exhibit, there is still time! This limited-time exhibit runs until February 27th, 2021. Want to learn more about another arachnid we have on this exhibit? Check out the Nature Notes blog post on scorpions and why they glow!

Autumn is Here and So Are the Birds!

Autumn is in full swing at River Legacy and life in the forest is experiencing some changes. We have covered in previous posts what some of those are. Today, we will primarily focus on the fall bird migration and the species you can enjoy seeing!

Autumn migration typically starts in late summer, around the middle to end of the month of August. The reason why many species migrate during this time is their need to find suitable temperatures and food sources in order to survive. North America is slowly entering the coldest part of the year and many species would not do well in that type of condition. Food becomes scarce so birds are forced to go back to warmer, more rich places in the southernmost parts of the U.S. (including northern Texas), Mexico, Central America, or even South America. River Legacy is fortunate to be located right in the middle of the Central Flyway, a migratory route that spans a wide swath of the central United States, Canada, and Mexico.

So what are some of the species that people can start to see this autumn and are expected to stay through the remainder of autumn and winter?

Several waterfowl are included in this group. Species such as the Canada goose (Branta canadensis), wood duck (Aix sponsa), blue-winged teal (Anas discors), and northern shoveler (Spatula clypeata) are fairly common sights.

Another group with several autumn and winter representatives are the sparrows. Some of those are the white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis), the white-crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys), the eastern towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus), and the dark-eyed junco (Junco hyemalis), among many.

Some woodpeckers, birds of prey, and other song birds also start to appear this time of year. These include, but are not in any way limited to, the yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius), the red-headed woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus), the northern flicker (Colaptes auratus), the ruby-crowned kinglet (Regulus calendula), the cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum), the brown thrasher (Toxostoma rufum), and the sharp-shinned hawk (Accipiter striatus).

Lastly, in addition to these birds moving in, you can still enjoy some of the birds that live at River Legacy all year-round. Among the common year-round species that live here are the northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), the northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos), the red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus), the red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus), the barred owl (Strix varia), the great horned owl (Bubo virginianus), the Bewick’s wren (Thryomanes bewickii), the eastern phoebe (Sayornis phoebe), the downy woodpecker (Dryobates pubescens), the red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus), the mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), and the Carolina chickadee (Poecile carolinensis).

Have you had some exciting bird sightings around River Legacy Park? Snap a picture and show us what you’ve seen by tagging us on Facebook @riverlegacyparks or on Instagram @livingsciencecenter!

Cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)
Eastern towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)
Blue-winged teal (Anas discors)

Once in a Blue Moon

Full Moon Photographed From Apollo 11 Spacecraft, www.nasa.gov

The year 2020 has been remarkable for many reasons, but especially for stargazers and astronomers alike. This year we have had/will have 13 full moons, two being super moons, and one which is a blue moon on Halloween! 

Let’s break this down a little more. On Halloween, October 31st, there will be a full moon. The timing of a full moon on Halloween only happens every 18-19 years! One might even say it happens once in a blue moon… This year’s full moon on Halloween is also considered a blue moon. Unfortunately, that does not mean the moon will be tinted blue. The term blue moon has to do with timing. Moon cycles are 29.5 days long, so there is usually only one full moon each month. However, sometimes months are longer than 29 days, so it is possible to have two full moons in one month. That second full moon of the month is considered a blue moon.

Full moons may sound like a spooky sight, and they can even cause some interesting animal encounters. Imagine you are outside at night going for a walk in the woods and you see a bright blue/green glowing animal creeping across the forest floor. You may think you are seeing some alien life form, but it’s actually just a scorpion! 

Scorpions under UV light. Credit: Lizardguy/Flickr

So why on earth would a scorpion need to glow? To answer that question you need to understand scorpions and their lifestyle. Scorpions are nocturnal predators that hunt for their food at night. When there is a full moon, scorpions can be seen glowing, which is actually fluorescing. Fluorescing is when the molecules become excited by energy, usually from a light source, and then the molecule relaxes back to its ground or “normal” state. This phenomenon can be recreated with scorpions during the sunny hours of the day by using a UV light. There are a few theories as to why scorpions fluoresce under the moonlight. Some scientists think that the glow may help scorpions find each other. Another possibility is that scorpions use it like sunscreen. However, the leading theory being developed by California State University arachnologist Carl Kloock, is that the scorpions use their fluorescence as a way to tell if they should go out and hunt or not. If scorpions are really desperate for a meal, then they will hunt regardless of the moonlight outside. However, if the scorpion is not particularly hungry and there is a full moon out, they may decide to stay hidden and avoid the moonlight. But none of these theories have been fully proven, so your guess is as good as ours!

If you are interested in seeing a scorpion fluoresce then be sure to come see our new traveling exhibit, The Art and Science of Arachnids, featuring 100 live arachnids! Exhibit opens December 1. Click here to learn more!

Daphne the Opossum

Daphne, June 2020

Here at River Legacy, we are a home to many animals that cannot be released into the wild for one reason or another. Our newest animal ambassador, Daphne the opossum, is no exception. 

Before we get into Daphne’s story, we should cover some opossum basics first. When baby opossums are born they find their way into their mother’s pouch. Yes, you read that correctly! Opossums have pouches and they are the only marsupial in North America. Those babies will stay in the pouch for 55-60 days and then they climb out and ride on the mother’s back for 4-6 weeks. Daphne was about three month old when she would have been riding on her mother’s back and unfortunately, was attacked by a dog. Thankfully, Daphne survived due to the great care given to her by some amazing rehabbers. However, Daphne did lose the external part of her ear and an eye on her right side. Daphne doesn’t let it slow her down, as she is very curious and loves to climb and explore. 

Daphne, September 2020

Daphne has earned the nickname “Hou-daphne” (like Houdini). The next morning after Daphne arrived, our Naturalist found her enclosure empty with the latches still in the closed position. After searching the entire animal room, Daphne was safely found on the second shelf wrapped up in a pouch inside a box and sleeping soundly. Since the incident, we have made sure that her enclosure is “opossum” proof and she has not wandered out again! Daphne was only 5 months old when she came to River Legacy on June 9th and was small enough to squeeze out of her enclosure. Daphne isn’t so small now and is growing fast from all the yummy treats she gets. Daphne’s favorite treats are boiled eggs, cheese sticks, and grapes. 

Opossums are misunderstood by many and are sometimes treated poorly by people. Opossums play a really important role in the ecosystem because they eat about 5,000 ticks every year, and if you didn’t know, ticks can cause some pretty harmful disease in humans. Opossums very rarely get rabies due to their body temperature being slightly lower than most other mammals. Opossums also eat venomous snakes and are immune to the venom that they inject through their bites. The next time you see an opossum, now you’ll know a bit more about them and the important role they play! We hope you get to meet Daphne soon!