When an opossum is playing dead, will it keep up the act even if an animal decides to start eating it anyways? Or will it wake up once it's flesh starts getting ripped open and try to fight back or flee?

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    After some googling, I think this question might be answerable only by a vet, an anesthesiologist or a wildlife expert. The sources I have looked at just say that animals don't try to eat a possum "playing dead". See also Apparent Death for two reported cases of orcas inducing tonic immobility (TI) (another term for apparent death) in (1) a great white shark and (2) a stingray. The shark was suffocated while in TI and the stingray eaten.
    – ab2
    Jun 26 '16 at 23:51
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    @ab2 Don't forget scavengers. I think they'll try to eat it anyway.
    – OddDeer
    Jun 27 '16 at 7:43
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    @OddDeer According to Wikipedia: When an opossum is "playing possum", the animal's lips are drawn back, the teeth are bared, saliva foams around the mouth, the eyes close or half-close, and a foul-smelling fluid is secreted from the anal glands.. Maybe this deters even scavengers?
    – Roflo
    Jul 6 '16 at 21:52
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    Oh, and I found this link saying that the opossum's body emits green mucus that will discourage most predators from feeding on him while he's in his comatose state. Can we consider it a reputable source?
    – Roflo
    Jul 6 '16 at 21:54
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    @Roflo I'm not asking about what most predators or scavengers will do with an opossum that's playing dead, the question is will an opossum wake up if it's act doesn't work.
    – ShemSeger
    Jul 7 '16 at 3:08

Partial Answer: Needs Input from Others

Following the suggestion of @OddDeer that scavengers would eat a possum playing dead, I did a bit of searching. The information in this source suggests that nobody will eat a live possum that is playing dead. But this is not definitive.

From What will eat an opossum?, September 23, 2009 by retrieverman

I’ve seen opossum carcasses lie in open fields where foxes and coyotes frequent, and they don’t touch them. I keep reading that foxes and coyotes eat them, but I’ve not seen it. Dogs will kill them, but that’s all they will do.

I’ve heard of coyotes raiding opossums stealing opossums from leg hold traps.

I’ve not seen it........

When an opossum dies, it usually rots until the turkey vultures show up. And then they eat it. They aren’t as picky as dogs, foxes, and coyotes are.

But this raises the question: If a turkey vulture will eat a thoroughly dead possum, why won't it try to eat a possum playing possum (which looks and smells dead), and if it does, what will the possum do?

I can only speculate that a scavenger can distinguish a truly rotten carcass from the simulated decay that the possum produces; the simulated decay fools non-scavengers but does not fool scavengers. This would be a survival trait for the possum. This still doesn't answer the OP's question about pain stimulus.


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