Brief Summary

    Virginia opossum: Brief Summary
    provided by wikipedia

    The Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana), commonly known as the North American opossum, is a marsupial found in North America. It is the only marsupial found north of Mexico. In the United States, it is typically referred to simply as a possum. It is a solitary and nocturnal animal about the size of a domestic cat. It is a successful opportunist. It is familiar to many North Americans as it is often seen near towns, rummaging through garbage cans.

    Brief Summary
    provided by EOL authors
    The Virginia Opossum is a cat-sized, tree-climbing animal with a pale face, naked leaf-like ears, and pink, pointy nose. Their underfur is pale in color with a coarse, grizzled overcoat that makes the animal appear gray to brown to black. On the ground they move about with a slow, hobbling gait. The opossum is unlike any other animal in the United States: it has 50 teeth, a pouch in which it carries its young, a prehensile tail and opposable thumbs on its hind feet. Although they can be aggressive when threatened, when facing a larger opponent they often "play dead," entering into a state of catatonia in hopes they will be passed over. Their flexible tail is scaly and mostly hairless, and used for balance and gripping branches and objects making them agile climbers. They do not sleep hanging from their tails. The Virginia opossum has the distinction of being North America's only marsupial, sometimes considered a "pouched" mammal. This is an ancient species is more closely related to the koala and the kangaroo than it is to the rodents in the area. Opossums are mainly active during the night. During the day they sleep in opportunistic dens and nests of other animals or spaces under human structures. In New England, they may make more permanent nests during the winter to return to each day. Virginia opossum are opportunistic scavengers. Their diets include many kinds of bugs and insects, carrion, snails, mice and rats, and fallen fruit. They are useful in their environments as they will eat food other animals might not.

Comprehensive Description

    Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
    provided by AnAge articles
    Maximum longevity: 6.6 years (captivity) Observations: In the wild, these animals do not live more than 2 or 3 years. One animal has been known to live 6.6 years in captivity (Richard Weigl 2005). Animals living on predator-free islands, live longer, start reproducing at later ages, have smaller litter sizes, and appear to age slower than their mainland counterparts (Austad 1993).
    Virginia opossum
    provided by wikipedia

    The Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana), commonly known as the North American opossum, is a marsupial found in North America. It is the only marsupial found north of Mexico. In the United States, it is typically referred to simply as a possum. It is a solitary and nocturnal animal about the size of a domestic cat. It is a successful opportunist. It is familiar to many North Americans as it is often seen near towns, rummaging through garbage cans.


    The Virginia opossum is the original animal named "opossum". The word comes from Algonquian wapathemwa meaning "white animal". Colloquially, the Virginia opossum is frequently called simply "possum". The name opossum is applied more generally to any of the other marsupials of the families Didelphidae and Caenolestidae.

    The generic name (Didelphis) is derived from Ancient Greek: di, "two", and delphus, "womb".[4]

    The possums of Australia, whose name is derived from a similarity to the opossums of the Americas, are also marsupials, but of the order Diprotodontia.

    The Virginia opossum is known in Mexico as tlacuache, tacuachi, and tlacuachi, from the Nahuatl word tlacuatzin.


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    The Virginia opossum is found throughout Central America and North America east of the Rockies from Costa Rica to southern Ontario and is expanding its range northward, northwesterly and northeasterly at a significant pace. Its pre-European settlement range was generally as far north as Maryland; southern Ohio, Indiana and Illinois; Missouri and Kansas. The clearing of dense forests in these areas and further north by settlers allowed the opossum to move northward. Since 1900 it has expanded its range to include most of New England (including Maine); New York State, extreme southwestern Quebec; most of southern and eastern Ontario; most of Michigan and Wisconsin; most of Minnesota, southeastern South Dakota and most of Nebraska. Areas such as Rhode Island and Waterloo Region and Simcoe County in southern Ontario rarely had sightings of opossums in the 1960s but now have them regularly, likely due to global warming causing winters to be warmer with less snow. Some people speculate the expansion into Ontario mostly occurred by opossums accidentally being transferred across the St. Lawrence, Niagara, Detroit and St. Clair Rivers by motor vehicles or trains they may have climbed upon. As the opossum is not adapted to colder winters or heavy snow, its population may be significantly reduced if a colder winter with heavier snow occurs in a particular northern region. Its ancestors evolved in South America, but invaded North America in the Great American Interchange, after the formation of the Isthmus of Panama about 3 million years ago.[citation needed]

    The Virginia opossum was not originally native to the west coast of the United States. It was intentionally introduced into the West during the Great Depression, probably as a source of food,[5] and now occupies much of the Pacific coast. Its range has been expanding steadily northward into British Columbia, Canada.

    A sizable population exists in Utah, feeding on human refuse and animal food in the cities. These animals nest in woodpiles and under houses to survive the long winters. [6]


    Dentition, as illustrated in Knight's Sketches in Natural History

    Virginia opossums can vary considerably in size, with larger specimens found to the north of the opossum's range and smaller specimens in the tropics. They measure 13–37 in (35–94 cm) long from their snout to the base of the tail, with the tail adding another 8.5–19 in (21.6–47 cm). Weight for males ranges from 1.7 to 14 lb (0.8–6.4 kg) and for females from 11 ounces to 8.2 lb (0.3–3.7 kg).[7] They are one of the world's most variably sized mammals, since a large male from northern North America weighs about 20 times as much as a small female from the tropics. Their coats are a dull grayish brown, other than on their faces, which are white. Opossums have long, hairless, prehensile tails, which can be used to grab branches and carry small objects. They also have hairless ears and a long, flat nose. Opossums have 50 teeth, more than any other North American land mammal,[8] and opposable, clawless thumbs on their rear limbs.

    Opossums have 13 nipples, arranged in a circle of 12 with one in the middle.[9][10]

    The opposable "thumb" on the back foot

    Perhaps surprisingly for such a widespread and successful species, the Virginia opossum has one of the lowest encephalization quotients of any marsupial.[11] Its brain is one-fifth the size of a raccoon's.[12]

    Opossum considers a bagel, but walks away


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    Pacing diagram for Virginia opossum - key: rectangles represent hind tracks, ellipses are fore tracks, left tracks are red, right are green. (a) the position of the four feet frozen in mid-pace. (b) the opossum brings right fore and hind feet forward. (c) the opossum brings left fore and hind feet forward. One grid square represents one square inch.
    Opossum tracks (photo center) in mud: Left-fore print appears on left center of photo, right-hind print appears right center. The small, circular tracks at bottom center of photo were made by a meadow vole. The yellow ruler (top) is in inches.

    Virginia opossum tracks generally show five finger-like toes in both the fore and hind prints.[13] The hind tracks are unusual and distinctive due to the opossum's opposable thumb, which generally prints at an angle of 90° or greater to the other fingers (sometimes near 180°). Individual adult tracks generally measure 1.9 in long by 2.0 in wide (4.8 × 5.1 cm) for the fore prints and 2.5 in long by 2.3 in wide (6.4 × 5.7 cm) for the hind prints. Opossums have claws on all fingers fore and hind except on the two thumbs (in the photograph, claw marks show as small holes just beyond the tip of each finger); these generally show in the tracks. In a soft medium, such as the mud in this photograph, the foot pads clearly show (these are the deep, darker areas where the fingers and toes meet the rest of the hand or foot, which have been filled with plant debris by wind due to the advanced age of the tracks).

    The tracks in the photograph were made while the opossum was walking with its typical pacing gait. The four aligned toes on the hind print show the approximate direction of travel.

    In a pacing gait, the limbs on one side of the body are moved simultaneously, just prior to moving both limbs on the other side of the body. This is illustrated in the pacing diagram, which explains why the left-fore and right-hind tracks are generally found together (and vice versa). However, if the opossum were not walking (but running, for example), the prints would fall in a different pattern. Other animals that generally employ a pacing gait are raccoons, bears, skunks, badgers, woodchucks, porcupines, and beavers.

    When pacing, the opossum's 'stride' generally measures from 7 to 10 in, or 18 to 25 cm (in the pacing diagram the stride is 8.5 in, where one grid square is equal to 1 in2). To determine the stride of a pacing gait, measure from the tip (just beyond the fingers or toes in the direction of travel, disregarding claw marks) of one set of fore/hind tracks to the tip of the next set. By taking careful stride and track-size measurements, one can usually determine what species of animal created a set of tracks, even when individual track details are vague or obscured.


    When injured or threatened, the Virginia opossum is well known for attempting to fake death or "play possum", as seen in this photo.
    Carrying its young

    The Virginia opossum is noted for reacting to threats by feigning death. This is the genesis of the term "playing possum", which means pretending to be dead or injured with intent to deceive. In the case of the opossum, the reaction seems to be involuntary, and to be triggered by extreme fear. It should not be taken as an indication of docility, for under serious threat, an opossum will respond ferociously, hissing, screeching, and showing its teeth, but with enough stimulation, the opossum will enter a near coma. It lies on its side, mouth and eyes open, tongue hanging out, emitting a green fluid from its anus whose putrid odor repels predators. Heart rate drops by half, and breathing rate is slowed by about 30%. Brain activity is unaltered however, and the animal remains fully conscious. Death feigning normally stops when the threat withdraws, and it can last up to six hours. Besides discouraging animals that eat live prey, playing possum also convinces some large animals that the opossum is no threat to their young.

    Opossums are omnivorous and eat a wide range of plants and animals such as fruits, grains, insects, snails, earthworms, carrion, snakes, birds, mice, and other small animals. The Virginia opossum has been found to be very resistant to snake venom.[14] Persimmons are one of the opossum's favorite foods during the autumn.[15] Opossums in captivity are known to engage in cannibalism, though this is probably uncommon in the wild.[16] Placing an injured opossum in a confined space with its healthy counterparts is inadvisable.

    The Virginia opossum does not hibernate, although it may remain sheltered during cold spells.[17]


    Juvenile opossum in Minnesota hissing defensively.

    The breeding season for the Virginia opossum can begin as early as December and continue through October with most young born between February and June. A female opossum may have one to three litters per year. During the mating season, the male attracts the female by making clicking sounds with his mouth. Like all female marsupials, the females reproductive system is bifid: with two lateral vaginae, uteri, and ovaries, and the small (comparable to a dime at birth) young are delivered through a birth canal known as the median vagina that forms shortly before birth. The male's penis is also bifid, with two heads, and as is common in New World marsupials, the sperm pair up in the testes and only separate as they come close to the egg. It is common for 20 or 30 young to be born (and even as many as 50), but the female only has 13 teats, arranged in a circle with one in the center, so only the first 13 may survive. An average litter is eight or nine joeys, which will reside in their mother's pouch for about two-and-a-half months, before eventually climbing on her back. They leave their mother after about four or five months.[18]

    Life span

    Virginia opossum in northeastern Ohio

    Opossums, like most marsupials,[citation needed] have unusually short lifespans for their size and metabolic rate. The Virginia opossum has a maximal lifespan in the wild of only about two years.[19] Even in captivity, opossums live only about four years.[20] The rapid senescence of opossums is thought to reflect the fact that they have few defenses against predators; given that they would have little prospect of living very long regardless, they are not under selective pressure to develop biochemical mechanisms to enable a long lifespan.[21] In support of this hypothesis, one population on Sapelo Island, 5 miles (8 km) off the coast of Georgia, which has been isolated for thousands of years without natural predators, was found by Dr. Steven Austad to have evolved lifespans up to 50% longer than those of mainland populations.[21][22]

    Historical references

    An early description of the opossum comes from explorer John Smith, who wrote in Map of Virginia, with a Description of the Countrey, the Commodities, People, Government and Religion in 1608 that "An Opassom hath an head like a Swine, and a taile like a Rat, and is of the bignes of a Cat. Under her belly she hath a bagge, wherein she lodgeth, carrieth, and sucketh her young."[23][24] The opossum was more formally described in 1698 in a published letter entitled "Carigueya, Seu Marsupiale Americanum Masculum. Or, The Anatomy of a Male Opossum: In a Letter to Dr Edward Tyson," from Mr William Cowper, Chirurgeon, and Fellow of the Royal Society, London, by Edward Tyson, M.D. Fellow of the College of Physicians and of the Royal Society. The letter suggests even earlier descriptions.[25]

    Relationship with humans

    Virginia opossum inhabiting a piano in Houston, Texas, shortly before its release

    Like raccoons, opossums can be found in urban environments, where they eat pet food, rotten fruit, and human garbage. Though sometimes mistakenly considered to be rats, opossums are not closely related to rodents, or other placentalian mammals. They rarely transmit diseases to humans,[citation needed] and are surprisingly resistant to rabies,[26] most likely because they have lower body temperatures than most placental mammals.[27] In addition, opossums limit the spread of Lyme disease, as they successfully kill off most disease-carrying ticks that feed on them.[28]

    The opossum was once a favorite game animal in the United States, in particular in the southern regions which have a large body of recipes and folklore relating to it.[29] Their past wide consumption in regions where present is evidenced by recipes available online[30] and in books such as older editions of The Joy of Cooking.[31] A traditional method of preparation is baking, sometimes in a pie or pastry,[32] though at present "possum pie" most often refers to a sweet confection containing no meat of any kind.

    Although it is widely distributed in the United States, the Virginia opossum's appearance in folklore and popularity as a food item has tied it closely to the American Southeast. In animation, it is often used to depict uncivilized characters or "hillbillies". The title character in Walt Kelly's long-running comic strip Pogo was an opossum. In an attempt to create another icon like the teddy bear, President William Howard Taft was tied to the character Billy Possum.[33][34] The character did not do well, as public perception of the opossum led to its downfall. In December 2010, a cross-eyed Virginia opossum in Germany's Leipzig Zoo named Heidi became an international celebrity.[35] She appeared on a TV talk show to predict the 2011 Oscar winners, similar to the World Cup predictions made previously by Paul the Octopus, also in Germany.[36]


    1. ^ Gardner, A.L. (2005). "Order Didelphimorphia". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494..mw-parser-output cite.citation{font-style:inherit}.mw-parser-output q{quotes:"""""'"'"}.mw-parser-output code.cs1-code{color:inherit;background:inherit;border:inherit;padding:inherit}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-free a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/65/Lock-green.svg/9px-Lock-green.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-limited a,.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-registration a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d6/Lock-gray-alt-2.svg/9px-Lock-gray-alt-2.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-lock-subscription a{background:url("//upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/a/aa/Lock-red-alt-2.svg/9px-Lock-red-alt-2.svg.png")no-repeat;background-position:right .1em center}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration{color:#555}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription span,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration span{border-bottom:1px dotted;cursor:help}.mw-parser-output .cs1-hidden-error{display:none;font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-visible-error{font-size:100%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-subscription,.mw-parser-output .cs1-registration,.mw-parser-output .cs1-format{font-size:95%}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-left,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-left{padding-left:0.2em}.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-right,.mw-parser-output .cs1-kern-wl-right{padding-right:0.2em}
    2. ^ Cuarón, A. D.; Emmons, L.; Helgen, K.; Reid, F.; Lew, D.; Patterson, B.; Delgado, C. & Solari, S. (2008). "Didelphis virginiana". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2008. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 28 December 2008.
    3. ^ John J. McManus (July 1970), "Behavior of Captive Opossums, Didelphis marsupialis virginiana", American Midland Naturalist, Vol. 84, No. 1: 144–169, doi:10.2307/2423733 External link in |title= (help)
    4. ^ Day, Leslie (10 May 2013). Field Guide to the Natural World of New York City. JHU Press. p. 225. ISBN 978-1-4214-1149-1.
    5. ^ The Opossum: Its Amazing Story, William J. Krause and Winifred A. Krause, University of Missouri-Columbia, 2006, p. 23, ISBN 0-9785999-0-X, 9780978599904.
    6. ^ http://www.wildliferemoval-utah.com/possum-removal.html
    7. ^ ADW: Didelphis virginiana: Information. Animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu (1974-05-02). Retrieved on 2011-09-15.
    8. ^ Wildlife Directory: Virginia Opossum — Living with Wildlife — University of Illinois Extension. Web.extension.illinois.edu. Retrieved on 2011-09-15.
    9. ^ With the Wild Things - Transcripts Archived 2013-03-23 at the Wayback Machine.. Digitalcollections.fiu.edu. Retrieved on 2011-09-15.
    10. ^ Mary Stockard, AWRC Mammal Supervisor (2001) Raising Orphaned Baby Opossums. AWRC.org
    11. ^ Ashwell, K.w.s. (April 2008). "Encephalization of Australian and New Guinean Marsupials". Brain, Behavior and Evolution. 71 (3): 181–199. doi:10.1159/000114406. ISSN 0006-8977. PMID 18230970.
    12. ^ "Virginia Opossum". Mass Audubon. Retrieved May 11, 2011. Opossums are frequently encountered as corpses along highways. Some biologists believe that many die as they feed on road-killed animals – a favorite food. Others believe that the opossums’ small brain (5 times smaller than that of a raccoon[sic - erroneous logic]) suggests that they may just be too dumb to get out of the way of vehicles!
    13. ^ Krause, William J.; Krause, Winifred A. (2006).The Opossum: Its Amazing Story Archived 2012-12-11 at the Wayback Machine.. Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences, School of Medicine, University of Missouri, Columbia, Missouri. 80 pages.
    14. ^ Sharon A. Jansa; Robert S. Voss (2011). "Adaptive evolution of the venom-targeted vWF protein in opossums that eat pitvipers". PLoS ONE. 6 (6): e20997. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020997. PMC 3120824. PMID 21731638.
    15. ^ Sparano, Vin T. 2000. The Complete outdoors encyclopedia. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-26722-3
    16. ^ Cannibalism in the Opossum. Opossum Society. Accessed May 7, 2007.
    17. ^ "Virginia Opossum Didelphis virginiana". eNature.com. Shearwater Marketing Group. Archived from the original on 2011-05-17. Retrieved 2009-03-24.
    18. ^ "Reproduction – Life Cycle - Opossum Society of the United States". opossumsocietyus.org.
    19. ^ Virginia Opossum. Didelphis virginiana Archived 2007-10-24 at the Wayback Machine.. Great Plains Nature Center. accessed Oct. 15, 2007
    20. ^ The Life Span of Animals Accessed Oct. 15, 2007
    21. ^ a b Karen Wright Staying Alive. Discover Magazine. November 6, 2003 Accessed Oct 15, 2007.
    22. ^ "State Of Tomorrow™ - Rising Challenges. Higher Education Solutions". www.stateoftomorrow.com.
    23. ^ Chrysti the Wordsmith> Radio Scripts> Opossum. Retrieved 2009-12-29.
    24. ^ Possum History Archived 2011-07-15 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved 2009-12-29.
    25. ^ Langworthy, Orthello R. (1932). "The Panniculus Carnosus and Pouch Musculature of the Opossum, a Marsupial". Journal of Mammalogy. 13 (3): 241–251. doi:10.2307/1373999. JSTOR 1373999.
    26. ^ "Understanding Rabies : The Humane Society of the United States". www.humanesociety.org.
    27. ^ "What to Do About Opossums : The Humane Society of the United States". www.humanesociety.org.
    28. ^ Keesing F, Brunner J, Duerr S, Killilea M, LoGiudice K, Schmidt K, Vuong H, Ostfeld RS (2009). "Hosts as ecological traps for the vector of Lyme disease". Proc. R. Soc. B. 276: 3911–3919. doi:10.1098/rspb.2009.1159. PMC 2825780.
    29. ^ Keith Sutton. Possum days gone by. ESPN Outdoors. January 12, 2009. Retrieved 2009-12-29.
    30. ^ Wild Game Recipes online. Retrieved 2009-12-29.
    31. ^ The joy of the ‘Joy of Cooking,’ circa 1962. Retrieved 2009-12-29.
    32. ^ opossum pie Archived 2011-07-18 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved 2009-12-29.
    33. ^ Possum Politics Archived 2006-12-16 at the Wayback Machine.. 'Possum Network. Last accessed November 19, 2006.
    34. ^ Political Postcards. Cyberbee learning. Last accessed November 19, 2006.
    35. ^ Kelsey, Eric. (January 11, 2011). "Cross-eyed opossum capturing hearts". Reuters. Retrieved January 12, 2011.
    36. ^ Kelsey, Eric. (28 February 2011). "German celebrity opossum misses one Oscar pick". Reuters. Retrieved 6 March 2011.


    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Opossums are found in North America, from Central America and Mexico in the south, through the United States east of the Rocky Mountains and north into southwestern Ontario. Opossums are also found along the west coast of the United States. Their range appears to be expanding northward (McManus, 1974).

    Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )


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    Opossums have a heavy set body that resembles a large house cat. They have a long head with a pointed snout. Their faces have long whiskers. All opossums have long, tapered tails with a scaly appearance. Females have a fur-lined pouch to carry their young (Baker, 1983). The color of the opossum varies by the region. Northern populations have thick underfur that is white in color and has black tips. The pale guard hairs give the opossum a gray appearance. In southern populations, the underfur is much sparser. Both northern and southern populations have white cheek hairs (McManus, 1974). Total length varies between 350 and 940 mm, tail length varies between 216 and 470mm. Males are larger than females with male weight ranging from 0.8 to 6.4 kg and female weight ranging from 0.3 to 3.7 kg (Wilson and Ruff, 1999).

    Range mass: 0.3 to 6.4 kg.

    Range length: 35.0 to 94.0 cm.

    Average length: 74.0 cm.

    Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

    Average basal metabolic rate: 5.299 W.


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    Opossums are found in a variety of environments, ranging from relatively arid to mesic environments. They prefer wet areas, however, especially streams and swamps. It is hard to determine the exact home range of an opossum because of their unusual movement patterns (McManus, 1974).

    Habitat Regions: temperate

    Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest

Trophic Strategy

    Trophic Strategy
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Opossums are omnivorous, including a wide variety of food in their diet (Baker, 1983). A majority of their diet is composed of insects and carrion. Opossums are also known to eat plants, including fruits and grains in season.

    Primary Diet: omnivore


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    As scavengers, Virginia opossums play an important role in the ecosystem by eating foods and garbage that other animals may not. They are important prey items for predators in the areas where they occur.

    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Virginia opossums are well-known for pretending to be dead to avoid being eaten by predators. This is called "playing dead" or "playing possum." When a Virginia opossum thinks that it is being threatened it will go into a catatonic state where it appears to be dead, they go limp and their breathing becomes almost undetectable. They re-awaken when the perceived danger passes.

    Virginia opossums are preyed on by predators such as coyotes, foxes, large owls, and hawks. As young they may also be preyed on by snakes and smaller birds of prey, such as falcons. Humans hunt Virginia opossums for food.

    Known Predators:

    • humans (Homo sapiens)
    • large owls (Strigiformes)
    • hawks (Accipitridae)
    • coyotes (Canis latrans)
    • red foxes (Vulpes vulpes)


    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

Life Expectancy

    Life Expectancy
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Virginia opossums rarely live for longer than 18 months. The oldest known opossum in the wild was 3 years old when last captured. Although they are preyed upon by several predators, most are killed by cars.

    Range lifespan
    Status: wild:
    3.0 (high) years.


    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    The mating season for opossums lasts from January to July. Copulation is usually initiated by the male. After copulation, the female rejects any more solicitations. The egg is fertilized in the Fallopian tubes. Birth occurs about 12.5 to 13 days after copulation. The average litter size ranges from 7 to 9. Depending on latitude, opossums have one or two litters per year. The young opossums weigh about 0.16 grams at birth. They are fixed to the nipple for the first 50 to 65 days of their lives. By 95 to 105 days, the young no longer depend on their mother. There is no maternal bond between the mother and young after they are weaned. Females are able to breed in their first season (McManus, 1974).

    Breeding season: January-July

    Range number of offspring: 1.0 to 13.0.

    Average gestation period: 12.5 days.

    Range weaning age: 95.0 to 105.0 days.

    Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 6.0 to 12.0 months.

    Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 6.0 to 12.0 months.

    Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous

    Average birth mass: 0.147 g.

    Average gestation period: 12 days.

    Average number of offspring: 15.

    Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care

Conservation Status

    Conservation Status
    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Adapted well to the presence of humans. Opossums appear to be extending their geographic range. The population density in the wild is not very high (one animal per ten acres).

    US Federal List: no special status

    CITES: no special status

    State of Michigan List: no special status

    IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern


    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Occasionally opossums have been known to get into human garbage, however their foraging activities are typically not disruptive (Baker, 1983). They are scavengers and rarely prey on live animals. Opossums can carry and transmit human diseases such as rabies, as can most mammals.

    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    In the southeastern United States, opossums are sometimes hunted for food. Opossums are used as research animals in a variety of laboratories, their fur is used occasionally, and they help to control garden pests.

    Positive Impacts: body parts are source of valuable material

Other Articles

    provided by Animal Diversity Web

    Opossums have a defensive tactic called (appropriately enough) "playing possum." In this, the animal fakes death to thwart an attack, and reaches a state of catatonia.

    When America was first colonized by Europeans, these possums did not occur north of Pennsylvania. As time passed, they moved north and westward on the Great Plains. In 1890, they were introduced to California. They spread on the west coast. Today in Michigan, they are currently spreading into the Upper Peninsula.