Natural History of Opossums
Opossums are the only North American marsupials. A marsupial is an animal with a pouch, like a kangaroo.
Opossums have pointed noses and naked tails. They are the only North American mammals with prehensile (grasping) tails. The tail is used to assist in climbing. It also stores extra fat reserves, enabling the animal to survive lean times.
Opossums have opposable thumbs on their hind feet which help them to grip branches and climb. They are the only non-primates with opposable thumbs.
When baby opossums are born, each one weighs 1/200 of an ounce, is less than ½ inch long, and lacks fully developed hind limbs. Up to 14 young are born after only 12 to 13 days of gestation. Of these 14 young, only about nine survive. The entire litter could fit into a teaspoon. They climb into the mother's pouch, where they remain for about ten weeks. When they are big enough, they ride around on their mother's back.
When attacked, an opossum can play dead, or "play possum." When using this defensive strategy, they drool and emit an unpleasant smell which discourages predators. They also climb to escape danger. When threatened, they will hiss and show their 50 sharp teeth.
They nest in abandoned burrows or fallen trees. Opossums eat a variety of foods and are able to adapt to many different environments, from cities to wilderness.
Their tracks show five toes on the front foot and five toes on the rear, including the opposable thumb. The thumb lacks a claw.
Personal Notes on Opossums
I recently walked outside at night and happened to see a very small animal by the woodpile. Upon closer examination, I determined that it was a baby opossum. I watched on the following nights and was treated to the sight of three baby opossums making their first forays out into the world. Their little ears were pink and looked too large for their heads. They moved slowly and tried out their climbing skills in a nearby tree. Fascinating animals to watch. When I used to live in the city, opossums would come around at night and get into the garbage cans. They used overhead powerlines as a sort of aerial highway. Pretty smart.
Find opossum posters, greeting cards, t-shirts, hats, and more in my new store.
Now available: "Animals Don't Cover
Their Tracks - An Introduction to Animal Tracking" on CD! (Version 3.0)
New drawings, more species, more photos, more extensive sections on tracking
humans, more detailed directions for plaster casting, mystery tracks section,
tracking stories section, and more. The CD features over 100 species, including
special bonus sections with the tracks of some African and Australian
animals. A large section on tracking lost people for search and rescue is
included, with over four pages of photos showing the details of tracks and
signs people leave. Easy to use format. This web site is limited
by bandwidth, but the CD-ROM is not. The CD is available in my online store at:
Works with Mac or PC. Happy tracking!!
What else can you find in the nature store? Beartracker's animal tracks coloring book, T-shirts, sweatshirts, journals, book bags, toddler and infant apparel, mouse pads, posters, postcards, coffee mugs, travel mugs, clocks, Frisbees, bumper stickers, hats, stickers, and many more items. All with tracks or paw prints, or nature scenes. Custom products are available. If you don't see the track you want on the product you want, email me and I can probably create it. Proceeds from all sales go to pay the monthly fees for this web site. You can help support this site as well as get great tracking products! Thank you!
|Find other tracking products: www.zazzle.com/tracker8459*|
|Also visit these fine
stores for more products of interest:
NDN Pride shop - For Indian Pride items for all tribes. Custom items available on request.
ASL Signs of Love - For anyone who uses or is learning ASL, American Sign Language. Custom name items and more are available here.
Sales from all stores give commissions to Beartracker's Animal Tracks Den, which helps keep this site online as a free service. We are celebrating ten years online this year!
Got an opossum story? E-mail me and tell me about it.
Copyright © 1997-2008. Text and drawings by Kim A. Cabrera