Overview

Distribution

Range Description

This species is distributed in eastern and central Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, and north Argentina (Gardner 2007). In Paraguay is extremely abundant in the Chaco region in western Paraguay, but the records from Argentina are scarce.
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Geographic Range

Monodelphis domestica is found throughout the forests of Brazil, Bolivia, Argentina, and Paraguay.

Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )

  • Wilson, D., D. Reeder. 1993. Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference, 2nd ed.. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.
  • Andromeda Oxford Ltd. 1984. American Opossums. Pp. 830-837 in D Macdonald, ed. The Encyclopedia of Mammals, Vol. 1/1, 1 Edition. New York, NY: Facts On File, Inc..
  • Andromeda Oxford Ltd. 2001. American Opossums. Pp. 808-814 in D Macdonald, S Norris, eds. The New Encyclopedia of Mammals, Vol. 1/1, 1 Edition. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Kalafut, M. 2005. "Know Your STO" (On-line). Short-Tailed Opossums, Keeping and Caring for These Pets. Accessed February 15, 2006 at http://www.knowyoursto.com/.
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Monodelphis domestica is a member of the group of short-tailed opossums, Monodelphis, which are some of the smallest didelphids. Body length of adults ranges from 10 to 15 cm. Adult males weigh between 90 and 155 g, females are between 80 and 100 g. Most individuals have light grey fur, but fur color does vary, with some popluations having more reddish or whitish fur. Their tails are naked, rat-like, and semi-prehensile. Tail length varies but is usually about half the length of the of body.

Range mass: 90 to 155 g.

Range length: 10 to 15 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger

Average basal metabolic rate: 0.335 W.

  • Unger, K. 1982. Nest-Building Behavior of the Brazilian Bare-Tailed Opossum, Monodelphis Domestica. Journal of Mammalogy, 63/1: 160-162.
  • Trupin, G., B. Fadem. 1982. Sexual Behavior of the Gray Short-Tailed Opossum (Monodelphis Domestica). Journal of Mammalogy, 63/3: 409-414.
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Ecology

Habitat

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Primarily found in xeric situations, this species has been trapped in grassy areas, brush piles, and among jumbled rocks in a dry riverbed. It is also tolerant of man-made clearings. It is an accomplished predator, feeding primarily on invertebrates (Eisenberg and Redford 1999). Extensive work on colony animals has made M. domestica one of the best studied of the South American small opossums. In captivity this species breeds throughout the year, and some females produce four litters a year, some studies suggest up to six litters. The female builds a compact, complicated nest, carrying nesting material with her tail. Gestation lasts fourteen or fifteen days; young are born at about 0.10 g; litter size is three to fourteen, with an average of seven; and the oestrous cycle is twenty-eight days. Other studies give age of first reproduction is five to seven months, and a litter range from 6 to 11 with an average of 8.4. Young are attached to the nipple for about two weeks and then enter a nest phase. The female does not have a pouch but will transport young on her back. Young eat solid food at four to five weeks, can be separated from the females at seven weeks, and can reproduce at fifteen months. In captivity males often weigh considerably more than females.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Gray short-tailed opossums are found in tropical forests, scrublands, and grassy areas, on the ground or in low level vegetation. As with other short-tailed opossums (Monodelphis), gray short-tailed opossums may inhabit human dwellings, where they feed on small rodents and insects.

Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: savanna or grassland ; forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest

Other Habitat Features: suburban ; agricultural

  • Eisenberg, J., K. Redford. 1999. Mammals of the Neotropics: The Central Neotropics, Vol. 3. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
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Trophic Strategy

Food Habits

Gray short-tailed opossums are omnivorous, eating insects, fruits, and small animals, such as rodents.

Animal Foods: mammals; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Plant Foods: fruit

Primary Diet: omnivore

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Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Gray short-tailed opossums are insectivores and negatively impact insect populations where they occur. No list of predators which feed upon M. domestica has been published; however, they are likely part of the diets of other mammalian carnivores, such as other didelphids, and large birds of prey. Monodelphis domestica also acts as a host for a variety of parasites, such as the echinostomatiform protozoan Rhopalias dobbini.

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

  • Prod, H. 1968. Phopalias-Dobbini New Species of Parasitic Trematode of Monodelphis-Domestica-Domestica. Bulletin du Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle, 40/2: 393-395.
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Predation

Specific information on predators of M. domestica was not found. Harpy eagles (Harpia harpyja), other birds of prey, and other predatory mammals are likely predators. Gray short-tailed opossums are cryptically colored and secretive, thereby avoiding some predation.

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Gray short-tailed opossums vocalize when threatened or approached by a possible mate. A series of chirps or barks is used to advertise threat level. Olfaction also plays an important role in the lives of gray short-tailed opossums; scent marking is used for territorial purposes and for assessment of reproductive condition of females.

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: pheromones ; scent marks

Perception Channels: visual ; acoustic

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Just over six years seems the most agreed upon upper lifespan in captivity. In the wild, two years is the standard lifespan.

Range lifespan

Status: wild:
3 to 6 years.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
4 years.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
6 to 10 years.

Typical lifespan

Status: wild:
1 to 3 years.

Typical lifespan

Status: captivity:
2 to 6 years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 5.1 years (captivity) Observations: One captive specimen lived for 5.1 years (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

Mating behavior in M. domestica is strongly tied to olfaction. Males habitually mark their surroundings with a chemical mark produced by a sternal gland. This scent likely serves as an advertisement to local females and a warning to local males. When a male and a receptive female meet, a precopulatory dance of sniffing, chasing, biting, and licking ensues. At the completion of this dance, the male immobilizes the female's hind legs and begins copulation, which lasts from 4 to 7 minutes. The majority of matings take place with the animals laying on their right sides.

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

Sexual maturity in M. domestica is reached by 18 to 20 weeks. Gestation lasts 14 to 15 days and females can have up to 5 litters per year. Typical litter size is from 7 to 9.

Breeding interval: On average gray short-tailed opossums breed 4 times per year.

Breeding season: In the wild, breeding occurs most often during the spring and summer months, when daylight hours are the longest.

Range number of offspring: 1 to 15.

Range gestation period: 14 to 15 days.

Range weaning age: 3 to 4 weeks.

Average weaning age: 3 weeks.

Range time to independence: 6 to 8 weeks.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 5 to 7 months.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 5 to 7 months.

Key Reproductive Features: seasonal breeding ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); induced ovulation ; viviparous

Average birth mass: 0.1 g.

Average number of offspring: 9.

Immediately after birth, newborn M. domestica crawl to their mother's stomach and attach to a nipple. They remain attached this way for 3 to 4 weeks. After detachment the young climb on their mother and/or follow her around for another three months or more. Paternal care in M. domestica is nonexistent, moreover, in captivity when fathers are confronted with their offspring, they act aggressively towards them.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

  • Trupin, G., B. Fadem. 1982. Sexual Behavior of the Gray Short-Tailed Opossum (Monodelphis Domestica). Journal of Mammalogy, 63/3: 409-414.
  • Eisenberg, J., K. Redford. 1999. Mammals of the Neotropics: The Central Neotropics, Vol. 3. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
  • Andromeda Oxford Ltd. 1984. American Opossums. Pp. 830-837 in D Macdonald, ed. The Encyclopedia of Mammals, Vol. 1/1, 1 Edition. New York, NY: Facts On File, Inc..
  • Andromeda Oxford Ltd. 2001. American Opossums. Pp. 808-814 in D Macdonald, S Norris, eds. The New Encyclopedia of Mammals, Vol. 1/1, 1 Edition. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
  • Kalafut, M. 2005. "Know Your STO" (On-line). Short-Tailed Opossums, Keeping and Caring for These Pets. Accessed February 15, 2006 at http://www.knowyoursto.com/.
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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Monodelphis domestica

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 2 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.  Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.  See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

AATCGTTGACTCTTCTCAACTAACCATAAAGATATTGGTACTTTATATTTATTATTTGGTGCTTGAGCAGGAATAGTTGGAACCGCACTAAGCCTCCTAATTCGAGCAGAATTAGGCCAACCAGGGACTCTAATTGGTGAT---GATCAAATTTATAACGTAATCGTAACTGCCCACGCTTTCGTTATAATTTTCTTCATAGTAATACCTATCATGATTGGAGGTTTTGGTAACTGACTAGTACCACTAATAATTGGAGCACCAGATATAGCATTTCCCCGAACAAATAATATAAGTTTCTGACTACTACCACCCTCATTCCTTCTTTTACTAGCATCATCCACAGTTGAAGCAGGGGCAGGAACTGGTTGAACAGTATATCCCCCATTAGCAGGAAACCTAGCCCACGCAGGTGCCTCAGTAGACCTAGCAATCTTCTCACTTCACTTAGCTGGTATTTCCTCCATCTTAGGTGCTATTAATTTTATTACCACTATTATCAACATAAAACCCCCAGCAATATCTCAATACCAGACCCCGCTGTTTGTATGATCAGTTATAATTACAGCCGTGCTTCTACTACTGTCTCTTCCAGTTCTAGCTGCAGGCATTACTATACTATTAACTGATCGAAATCTTAATACTACCTTCTTTGATCCTGCAGGTGGAGGAGATCCCATCCTTTATCAGCACCTGTTTTGATTTTTTGGTCACCCAGAAGTTTATATTCTTATTCTCCCAGGATTTGGGATCATCTCGCACATTGTTACATATTATTCAGGTAAAAAAGAGCCTTTTGGCTATATAGGAATAGTGTGGGCTATAATATCTATTGGGTTTTTAGGTTTTATTGTATGAGCCCATCATATATTTACTGTAGGACTAGACGTTGATACTCGAG
-- end --

Download FASTA File
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Statistics of barcoding coverage: Monodelphis domestica

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2011

Assessor/s
Vilela, J., Solari, S., Flores, D., de la Sancha, N. & Astua de Moraes, D.

Reviewer/s
Teta, P. & Chiozza, F.

Contributor/s

Justification
This species is listed as Least Concern in because of its wide distribution, presumed large population, occurrence in a number of protected areas, tolerance to some degree of habitat modification, and because it is unlikely to be declining at nearly the rate required to qualify for listing in a threatened category.
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Monodelphis domestica is both common in the wild and in the pet trade.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Population

Population
Monodelphis domestica is common in the wild (Eisenberg and Redford 1999, Emmons and Feer 1997). In Paraguay is abundant in the Chaco region in western Paraguay, but the records from Argentina are scarce.

Population Trend
Stable
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Threats

Major Threats
There are no major threats to this species.
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Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
The species occurs in a number of protected areas throughout its range.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Monodelphis domestica can invade human dwellings and become an annoyance.

Negative Impacts: household pest

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Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Gray short-tailed opossums have become a popular species in the exotic pet trade. They are important in research because they are one of the few animals to get skin cancer at a rate similar to humans. Gray short-tailed opossums are at the top of the list for full genome sequencing. Dozens of research projects are currently being done with M. domestica.

Gray short-tailed opossums are often welcome visitors in human households, as they consume insects, scorpions, and other pests.

Positive Impacts: pet trade ; research and education

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Wikipedia

Gray short-tailed opossum

The gray short-tailed opossum (Monodelphis domestica) is a small South American member of the Didelphidae family of opossums. It was the first marsupial to have its genome sequenced. The opossum is used as a research model in science,[3] and is also frequently found in the exotic pet trade. It is also known as the Brazilian opossum, rainforest opossum and in a research setting the laboratory opossum.

Description[edit]

Gray short-tailed opossums are relatively small animals, with a superficial resemblance to voles. In the wild they have head-body length of 12 to 18 cm (4.7 to 7.1 in) and weigh 58 to 95 grams (2.0 to 3.4 oz); males are larger than females.[4] However, individuals kept in captivity are typically much larger, with males weighing up to 150 grams (5.3 oz).[5] As the common name implies, the tail is proportionately shorter than in some other opossum species, ranging from 5 to 9 centimetres (2.0 to 3.5 in).[4]

The fur is greyish brown over almost the entire body, although fading to a paler shade on the underparts, and with near-white fur on the feet. Only the base of the tail has fur, the remainder being almost entirely hairless.[4] The claws are well-developed and curved in shape, and the paws have small pads marked with fine dermal ridges.[6] Unlike many other marsupials, females do not have a pouch. They typically possess thirteen teats,[7] which can be retracted into the body by muscles at their base.[4]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The gray short-tailed opossum is found generally south of the Amazon River, in southern, central, and western Brazil. It is also found in eastern Bolivia, northern Paraguay, and in Formosa Province in northern Argentina.[2] It inhabits rainforest environments, scrubland, and agricultural land, and often enters man-made structures, such as houses.[4] There are no recognised subspecies.

Behaviour[edit]

Gray short-tailed opossums eat rodents, frogs, reptiles, and invertebrates, as well as some fruit. They hunt primarily by scent, poking their snout into vegetation in search of prey or dead animals to scavenge. Once they find living prey, they pounce onto it, holding it down with their forefeet while delivering a killing strike, often to the base of the neck, with their sharp teeth. They can successfully take prey up to their own size.[4]

They are nocturnal, being most active in the first three hours after dusk. Although they may occasionally shelter in natural crevices in the rock, they normally spend the day in concealed nests constructed of leaves, bark, and other available materials. The nests of females are more complex and tightly woven than those of males. They are solitary, coming together only to mate, and with each individual occupying a home range of 1,200 to 1,800 m2 (13,000 to 19,000 sq ft), flagged with scent marks. The approach of another member of the species is commonly met with hissing and screeching, which may escalate to defensive strikes launched while the animal is standing on its hind legs.[4]

Reproduction[edit]

The opossums breed year round when the climate is suitable, being able to raise up to six litters of six to eleven young each during a good year. Females only come into oestrus when exposed to male pheromones, with ovulation being induced only by physical contact with the male.[8] Gestation lasts fourteen days, after which the young attach to a teat, where they remain for the next two weeks. Like all marsupials, the young are born undeveloped; in this species they are just 1 centimetre (0.39 in) in length and weigh 0.1 grams (0.0035 oz) at birth.[9] The young grow hair at around three weeks, open their eyes about a week later,[4] and are weaned at eight weeks[10]

Gray short-tailed opossums are sexually mature at five to six months of age, and live for up to forty-nine months in captivity.[4]

Laboratory opossum[edit]

The gray short-tailed opossum possesses several features that make it an ideal research model, particularly in studies of marsupials, as well as the immunological and developmental research on mammalian systems. It breeds relatively easily in laboratory settings, and neonates are exposed and can be readily accessed because, unlike other marsupial species, female opossums lack a pouch: neonates simply cling to the teats. Opossums are born at a stage that is approximately equivalent to 13- to 15-day-old fetal rats or 40-day-old human embryos. Like other marsupials, the inadequacies of the neonate's immune system function make it an ideal model for both transplant and cancer research, as well as general investigations into immune system development.[11] Its genome was sequenced and a working draft published in May 2007:[12] the decoding work, directed by MIT and Harvard, reveals the opossum to have between 18,000 and 20,000 protein-coding genes. The full genome sequence and annotation can be found on the Ensembl Genome Browser.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Gardner, A. (2005). Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M, eds. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 14. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  2. ^ a b Vilela, J., Solari, S., Flores, D., de la Sancha, N. & Astua de Moraes, D. (2011). "Monodelphis domestica". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2011.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 18 January 2012.  Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
  3. ^ "Extraordinary Resources: The Laboratory Opossum". SFBR. Retrieved 2007-04-13. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Macrini, T.E. (2004). "Monodelphis domestica". Mammalian Species: Number 760: pp. 1–8. doi:10.1644/760. 
  5. ^ Fadem, B.H. & Rayve, R.S. (1985). "Characteristics of the oestrous cycle and influence of social factors in grey short-tailed opossums (Monodelphis domestica)". Journal of Reproduction and Fertility 73 (2): 337–342. doi:10.1530/jrf.0.0730337. 
  6. ^ Hamrick, M.W. (2001). "Morphological diversity in digital skin microstructure of didelphid marsupials". Journal of Anatomy 198 (6): 683–688. doi:10.1046/j.1469-7580.2001.19860683.x. 
  7. ^ Robinson, E.S., et al. (1991). "Mammary glands in male marsupials. 2. Development of teat primordia in Didelphis virginiana and Monodelphis domestica". Reproduction, Fertility, and Development 3 (3): 295–301. doi:10.1071/RD9910295. 
  8. ^ Harder, J.D., et al. (1993). "Gestation and placentation in two New World opossums: Didelphis virginiana and Monodelphis domestica". Journal of Experimental Zoology 266 (5): 463–479. doi:10.1002/jez.1402660511. 
  9. ^ Encyclopedia of Life
  10. ^ VandeBerg, J.L. (1989). "The gray short-tailed opossum (Monodelphis domestica) as a model didelphid species for genetic research". Australian Journal of Zoology 37 (2 & 3): 235–247. doi:10.1071/ZO9890235. 
  11. ^ Wang Z; Hubbard GB; Pathak S; VandeBerg JL (October 1, 2003). "In vivo opossum xenograft model for cancer research". Cancer Research 63 (19): 6121–6124. PMID 14559788. 
  12. ^ Mikkelsen TJ et al. (May 2007). "Genome of the marsupial Monodelphis domestica reveals innovation in non-coding sequences". Nature 447 (7141): 167–177. doi:10.1038/nature05805. PMID 17495919. 
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