New Study Says Possums Don’t Like Eating Ticks
Many of us often take memes and popular shared statements as scientific fact. Wildlife myths (or exaggerated claims) can be both fun and fascinating so they are easily perpetuated. Even as environmental educators we are just as guilty because lots of things sound true and whike we all should, who has the time to do an extensive literature review of everything we hear, especially when it adds a positive spin to a misunderstood species? This has also been the case for things like the number of mosquitoes bats eat each night but in reality they only appear to make up a small part of their diet. An old laboratory study created a foundation an often sited figure that was later found not to be true in wild populations as bats prefer larger insect prey and only eat so much a night. This controlled lab vs wild study correlation seems to align with this Opossum finding as well.
However it is important to continue to learn and sharpen our understanding. Opossums are important to our ecosystem and fascinating creatures for many reasons but at least according to this one new study, the idea of their insatiable hunger for ticks appears to not be validated with field observations and published dietary analysis. That being said, species that control tick carrying rodents, such as snakes, foxes, coyotes, weasels, birds of prey, and others can keep reduce ticks and their associated diseases. We're always trying to correct negative perceptions of wildlife but the most important thing we can do is to promote maintaining a healthy and intact ecosystem. That balance serves both us and all of the species around us.
Science is great because it encourages us to challenge, confirm or refute assumptions, learn and always continue to grow our understanding of this incredible universe we are a part of.