At first glance, it's hard to believe that the possum is anything cooler than a vaguely punk rock rat. But the animal that has the most in common with the possum is one of the most feared predators in the ancient American South: the saber-toothed tiger.
Before humans came along, the saber-toothed tiger (smilodon) was at the top of the food chain. But climate change and hunting put an end to the smilodon's reign. The fact that the closest thing we have right now to the saber-toothed tiger -- a creature straight off a heavy metal album cover, complete with eight-inch teeth -- is most well-known for getting hit by cars and eating trash is Mother Nature's way of letting everyone know that she has a great sense of humor, and is willing to use it.
The similarities go beyond bone structure. Possums kill by holding prey in place with their strong arms and delivering the coup de grace with one big bite to the neck, exactly like the smilodon ... if those tigers also hunted discarded Cheez-It bags.
Saber-tooth tigers are best remembered in plushie form.
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