As a native Vermonter, I’ve always been drawn to the northeast’s wildlife and find myself enthralled whenever a doe and her fawn cross through the orchard on their way to the river. I’ve seen a fishercat cross the road while waiting for the school bus, and foxes and coyotes traipse through my neighbor’s expansive field, which my Labradors try (and fail) to catch. While I would love the chance to observe these animals and their behavior up close, it was still pretty neat to see some specimens in the final comparative anatomy laboratory of the semester.
While I had seen some necropsied birds during my selective, it was fun to hear my classmates ooh and aah over the fascinating anatomy of the various songbirds donated from the wildlife clinic. The birds had died of natural causes or were euthanized because their injuries were too extensive to rehabilitate. It was interesting to see that the red fox anatomy was almost exactly the same as a dog, and that the gastrointestinal anatomy of the fawn was a ruminant’s GI plan in miniature. But my absolute favorite part was learning about the opossum’s pouch. Their babies emerge from the mother’s reproductive tract, crawl up the abdomen, enter the pouch, and select one of two teats to swallow. Yup, you read that right—the baby opossums swallow the teat so far that the nipple actually enters the baby’s stomach. This way the baby opossum is firmly attached as it grows and develops inside the mother’s pouch. Some people think opossums look scary, but I think these marsupials are pretty darn awesome.