Why do some people eat possums

Very old

in the new Yorker I came across an article about the Postojna Cave in Slovenia, a huge stalactite cavern. Grotto olms live in it. Not so long ago people believed that there was a dragon there, because when it rained, olms, each as long as a man's foot, were washed out of the cave: people thought they were dragon babies, children of the monster in the interior of the earth. In fact, a grotto olm looks scary. Although he breathes through his lungs, he also has a purple, shimmering ring of gills behind his head, his legs are delicate, his eyes are blind, the skin is transparent, "she leaves," he writes new Yorker, "The internal organs become visible and give them an eerie glow". Grotto olms can survive without food for ten years. You will be a hundred years old. Eating little seems to be a good prerequisite for longevity, lobsters, for example, can easily reach a hundred and need much less food than other crabs. If I see it right, Helmut Schmidt was also not inclined to lavish meals. The freshwater pearl mussel, which often exceeds 110, also has a very low metabolic rate.

Now a word about the possum. This kind of opossum is aging at an incredible rate. The American gerontologist Steven Austad, who studies the aging process in animals, was once trapped in Venezuela by an 18-month-old female opossum, safe and sound. He marked it. He saw it again just a few months later. Now it looked like a hundred: cloudy pupils, arthritic gait, hair bald and full of parasites. Opossums, he learned, are ancient at two years old and then soon die.

Isn't that strange: that nature created not only different species of animals, but also very different ways of aging? According to Austad, the opossum is a defenseless prey, and the meaning of its existence is essentially to be eaten by pumas or coyotes. So it is not worth investing heavily in prophylaxis against physical ailments; most possums would never become seniors anyway.

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The cave olm, however, lives in a world that is free from enemies, just like the naked mole rat, an amazing animal that lives underground in African deserts and whose exterior is repeatedly described as a kind of running penis with very long teeth. Naked mole rats never get sick. They know no cancer, no pain sensation. (Pour boiling water over you, he won't complain!) You will be thirty years old, but you will be in top shape until the end. It's like a ninety-year-old person is as active as he was when he was twenty. I don't know why they die in the first place. It's probably just a habit.

Incidentally, naked mole rats live in a state like bees, i.e. with a queen and strong keepers in front of the entrances to their burrow, which distinguishes them, for example, from the Coruro, a Chilean rodent that also lives underground, in groups of around 15 animals, however not in tightly organized states like the Mulle. Its life expectancy is a maximum of six years.

I am now summarizing my today's tips for people who are interested in a long life: Live underground, if possible! Eat little! Stay away from enemies! Don't be a victim! Get involved in the state in which you live!

By the way, there is a music festival called in October in the California desert Desert trip instead, an unprecedented event. The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Neil Young, Roger Waters and The Who will be on stage. Hardly any of them are under seventy, some actors should already be transparent, yes, Keith Richards' internal organs would glow like an olm if he still had some.

So making a little music doesn't hurt either.

Illustration: Dirk Schmidt