Running along the path at Fullersburg Woods yesterday, we were treated to the sight of not one but two industrious muskrats taking care of business. One of them was so unfazed by my appearance on the path a mere ten feet from him that I had the good fortune to get to watch him for a full minute or more before he decided he'd socialised enough and disappeared below the water.
A watched muskrat never surfaces.
I needn't have waited around for him - these little guys can stay underwater for 15-17 minutes (!) , according to Wikipedia, in part because they have an adaptation shared by many sirenians and pinnipeds -- an unusual tolerance for a buildup of CO2 in their bloodstream.
Muskrat or beaver?
Muskrats are, of course, not true rats (they're actually in a genus unto themselves, but share a Rodentia subfamily with voles and lemmings), but for some reason the name seems to mean that they have a lesser hold on the public imagination than their other semi-aquatic cousin, the beaver.
So, invariably, Lou and I end up debating whether that thing that just disappeared underwater is a muskrat or beaver. Predictably, I scoffed at Lou's assertion that it was way too small for beaver-dom, since "some beavers I've seen on the side of the road have been the size of german shepherds." Oh yes, Lou. And I'm sure they were accompanied by mice the size of dachsunds. Dream on.
To just put the stamp of officialdom on this absurdity, of course I went nosing about on the web later. And all I can say is....
|Fabulous were - beaver image by jrosenbomb on Deviantart|
According to The Wikipedia, beavers regularly reach weights of 78 pounds, with "typical" being 44 (compared to the muskrat at 2-4 lbs). Since they seem to grow to some extent over the course of their lives, particularly venerable males have weighed in at 110 lbs.
That is, dear readers, the size of your author. It is also the size of (large, male) cheetahs. And wolves. Are you freaking kidding me?
Do taxidermists chicken out and only work on the younguns? Because I swear I've never seen one that looked bigger than a large cat. Have you?