Opossum animal<<<< Back to wild animals
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Infraclass: Marsupialia
- SuperOrder: Ameridelphia
- Order: Didelphimorphia
- Family: Didelphidae
- Conservation status: Not Evaluated
- Height: 15 - 45 cm (6 - 18in)
- Weight: 1 - 6 kg (2 - 13 lbs)
- Diet: Omnivore
- Speed: 25 km/h (15 mph)
- Predators: Fox, Cat, Birds of Prey
- Sexual Maturity: about 1 year
- Gestation Period: up to 2 weeks
- Lifespan: 2 - 4 years
- Litter size: 6-12 babies, up to 20
- Distinctive Feature: Sharp claws and long prehensile tail.
Opossums (Didelphis virginiana) are the largest marsupials in the Western Hemisphere. They are also called "possum". The Virginia Opossum was the first opossum animal named in 1610. Opossum has its roots in the word "aposoum" which means "white beast ".
Opossums are omnivorous animals and have a highly diversified diet. They feed on insects, frogs, birds, snakes, small mammals, etc. They eat fruits and other foods around households and sometimes scrap waste.
They are small and medium sized marsupials, with specimens from the size of a mouse to the size of a normal house cat. Opossums are animals that live in trees, some species are omnivores, and others vegetarians. The incisors are very small but they have large canines. They use all legs when moving. The opposable thumb has no claw. Only females have a pouch. Opossums have an enviable immune system.
Opossums are partial or total immune to snake venom (rattlesnakes or other vipers). The chance of getting ill, compared to a dog, is 800 times lower.
- White-eared opossum (Didelphis albiventris)
- Big-eared opossum (Didelphis aurita)
- Guianan white-eared opossum (Didelphis imperfecta)
- Common opossum (Didelphis marsupialis)
- Andean white-eared opossum (Didelphis pernigra)
- Anderson's four-eyed opossum (Philander andersoni)
- Deltaic four-eyed opossum (Philander deltae)
- Southeastern four-eyed opossum (Philander frenatus)
- McIlhenny's four-eyed opossum (Philander mcilhennyi)
- Mondolfi's four-eyed opossum (Philander mondolfii)
- Olrog's four-eyed opossum (Philander olrogi)
- Gray four-eyed opossum (Philander opossum)
- Heavy-browed mouse opossum (Marmosa andersoni)
- Isthmian mouse opossum (Marmosa isthmica)
- Rufous mouse opossum (Marmosa lepida)
- Mexican mouse opossum (Marmosa mexicana)
- Linnaeus's mouse opossum (Marmosa murina)
- Quechuan mouse opossum (Marmosa quichua)
- Robinson's mouse opossum (Marmosa robinsoni)
- Red mouse opossum (Marmosa rubra)
- Sepia short-tailed opossum (Monodelphis adusta)
- Northern three-striped opossum (Monodelphis americana)
- Northern red-sided opossum (Monodelphis brevicaudata)
- Yellow-sided opossum (Monodelphis dimidiata)
- Gray short-tailed opossum (Monodelphis domestica)
- Emilia's short-tailed opossum (Monodelphis emiliae)
- Amazonian red-sided opossum (Monodelphis glirina)
- Ihering's three-striped opossum (Monodelphis iheringi)
- Pygmy short-tailed opossum (Monodelphis kunsi)
- Marajó short-tailed opossum (Monodelphis maraxina)
- Osgood's short-tailed opossum (Monodelphis osgoodi)
- Hooded red-sided opossum (Monodelphis palliolata)
- Reig's opossum (Monodelphis reigi)
- Ronald's opossum (Monodelphis ronaldi)
- Chestnut-striped opossum (Monodelphis rubida)
- Long-nosed short-tailed opossum (Monodelphis scalops)
- Southern red-sided opossum (Monodelphis sorex)
- Southern three-striped opossum (Monodelphis theresa)
Opossums are usually solitary, they stay in an area as long as they have food or water available. They temporarily occupy abandoned burrows and do not make big efforts in digging too much. They are nocturnal animals and prefer dark areas. These areas may be below ground level.
When they are in danger or they feel threatened they behave like a sick or dead animal and spread in the air the scent of a corpse. The lips are drawn back, teeth pushed out and the unpleasant smell is released from the anal glands. Cubs may hang from the tail, adults can’t because they’re too heavy. In defense, besides flaunting their teeth they make a whistle sound to intimidate the enemy.
Like all marsupials possums have a reproduction cycle similar to that of a kangaroo. Cubs are born early after a gestation period of only 12-14 days. Once born, the cubs need to find their way to the pouch. Sexual dimorphism is clearly seen from the beginning. Males are larger, heavier and have larger canines than females. Couples mate several times. This increases the likelihood of fertilization.
Females give birth to a large number of cubs, sometimes even 13, depending on the species. Cubs are weaned after 70 up to 125 days.
Life is unusually short for a mammal of this size, only 2-6 years.
Did you know that:
The opossum is an animal with thick fur and very small feet that have something in common with people, five fingers.
The opossum has the shortest gestation period, about 12 weeks.