1. They are about the same size as a large house cat, having a triangular head with a long pointed nose. The Virginia opossum is the only member of the genus that stores body fat, and older males may exceed 6 kg (13.2 pounds) in the fall of the year. Opossums inhabit a wide range, from sea level to elevations over 10,000 feet. The name was adapted from the Native American Algonquin term ‘ apasum ’, which mean white animal. Each of the female’s nipples, which have become enlarged and elongated by the first litter, develops a small projection (papilla) to which the newborn from the second litter attaches. Male Virginia opossums may grow to 100 cm (40 inches) but average about 76 cm (30 inches) in total length (including the tail); females average about 72 cm (28 inches). Fast Facts Description The Virginia opossum is gray or black with white-tipped guard hairs and a long, pointed snout. Not all marsupials live in Australia; around 100 species are found in the Americas, and it is thought that it was here that the first marsupials appeared. Opossums are scavengers, and they often visit human homes or settlements to raid garbage cans, dumpsters, and other containers. Geographic Range. Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub, 2. Opossums are good to have around. The Virginia opossum has a total of 50 teeth, more than any other North American mammal. Nor does it dig or claw. Opossum eyes do have whites and irises, but because their pupils are so large, their eyes appear completely black from a distance. Opossum's are far more interesting than most people give them credit for. Diet Omnivorous; feeds on small vertebrates, carrion, invertebrates, and plant matter Each foot has five toes; one toe is opposable. The species that many people think of when hearing about this animal is the common opossum, also known as Virginia opossum. It has a triangular head and a long pointed nose. It is familiar to many North Americans as they frequently inhabit settled areas due to the associated proximity to food sources, notably trash cans. Their breathing even slows down for a few minutes or up to several hours. POSTURE. Adult opossums weigh about 2-6 kg (4-14 lbs). It has grizzled white and gray fur. The opossum in the photograph above has lost the end of its tail due to frostbite. The opossum has been around for at least 70 million years and is one of Earth's oldest surviving mammals! The truth is just the opposite: Opossums are smarter, cleaner, and more beneficial to humans than many of their woodland neighbors. Denning sites vary and may include buildings, abandoned burrows and hollow trees. A marsupial is an animal with a pouch, like a kangaroo or a koala. The opossum has a heavyset body covered with grayish fur. The opossum is about the size of a large house cat. The Virginia Opossums are absent from the Plains and arid southwest of the United States. This behaviour has given rise to the expression “playing possum.” Fat opossums were once a popular food in the southern United States, and possum hunting was a popular sport. The Virginia opossum is the only member of the genus that stores body fat, and older males may exceed 6 kg (13.2 pounds) in the fall of the year. A marsupial is an animal with a pouch, like a kangaroo or a koala. It has a long, prehensile tail and short legs with sharp claws. Photo by Cody Pope (Wikimedia). https://www.britannica.com/animal/Virginia-opossum, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History - North American Mammals - Virginia Opossum. They like cover and places to hide. Movement, habitat use and denning of opossums in the Georgia piedmont. Virginia opossum facts, pictures, video and information. Opossums have the greatest number of teeth of any land mammal: fifty of them, razor sharp. They don’t hibernate but do reduce activity during the coldest seasons. With more than 200 marsupial species naturally present in and around Australia, more than a hundred more additional species are native to South and Central America, whereas this curious marsupial stands alone as the only creature of its kind in Canada and the United States. Virginia opossums may have a better chance of survival in urban environments partially because there are fewer predators. Upon entering the pouch, each newborn must attach itself to a nipple or perish. The Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana), commonly known as the North American opossum, is the only marsupial found north of Mexico. The fur is grayish and is everywhere except its ears, tail and feet. Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. Virginia opossums are nocturnal, solitary and terrestrial. 1985. Virginia opossums have a narrow snout, with a pink nose and prominent whiskers. Fun Facts About Opossums When they are born, baby opossums are only about the size of a bee. The albinotic colour phase is a rare and unusual colour pattern, often misinterpreted as albino (true albinos have white fur and pink eyes and skin), in which the fur is white but the colour of the eyes, eye rings, feet, and basal portion of the tail is dark brown or black. They are very good climbers and may establish their dens in trees. They begin their nightly activities at dusk and are active until dawn. In this article, we will be mostly discussing Virginia opossum facts and benefits to the garden. Virginia Opossum Fun Facts. The Virginia opossum is predominantly found in east and south of North America. The Virginia opossum is about the size of a cat. The toes and the tips of the ears usually are white in northern populations and black in Mexico and Central America. opossum rabies. The name “opossum” was used for the first time in western culture in 1608 by Captain John Smith. Most, if not all, marsupials live in Australia. The only opossum species occurring north of Mexico is the Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana), which ranges from lower eastern Canada and Puget Sound southward to Costa Rica; other members of that genus are found in South America.The Virginia opossum may grow to 100 cm (40 inches) in length (including the tail) and is about the size of a house cat. The Virginia opossum was once widely hunted and consumed in … Their fore and hind feet have five toes, all with sharp claws except for the clawless, thumblike, opposable innermost toe on the hind feet. The Virginia opossum is a competent climber and swimmer and can reach a running speed of 4.6 mph (7.4 km/h). The opossum is the only species of marsupial (mammals with a pouch in which they carry their young) that is found outside of Australia an it's surrounding islands. Opossums originated in South America and are believed to have entered North America during the Great American Interchange, which is when the continents connected and is believed to have occurred approximately 2.7 million years ago. The Virginia opossum is North America's only marsupial. VIRGINIA OPOSSUM FACTS. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). An individual will curl up with its mouth open, tongue hanging out, and it looks dead. Scientists estimate that a single opossum can kill about 5,000 ticks in Opossums Kill Ticks by the Thousands ... Outside of Mexico, the Virginia opossum is the only known marsupial to make its home in North America – although there are several other species of opossum that can be found in other parts of the world. Facts about possums often include claims that they are disease-carrying dangerous creatures. 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