Project Noah

Project Noah is a tool to explore and document wildlife and a platform to harness the power of citizen scientists everywhere.

Join Project Noah Today

Common Opossum

Didelphis marsupialis

Description:

The opossums, also known as possums, are marsupial mammals of the order Didelphimorphia /daɪˌdɛlfᵻˈmɔːrfiə/). The largest order of marsupials in the Western Hemisphere, it comprises 103 or more species in 19 genera. Opossums originated in South America, and entered North America in the Great American Interchange following the connection of the two continents. Their unspecialized biology, flexible diet, and reproductive habits make them successful colonizers and survivors in diverse locations and conditionsThe common opossum is similar in size to a house cat. The fur of the opossum is actually yellow in the under-fur, but is hidden by the longer black guard-hairs that cover it, while the tail, fingers, and face are lighter "with the tail being without fur, somewhat similar to a giant rat tail." It can measure nearly 20 inches long. It has large ears that are usually black, and its face is usually a pale peach in color, with black whiskers and eyes that reflect reddish in light. With a body length of nearly a foot, and a tail that can reach almost two feet, the common opossum is one of the larger members of its family. An adult can weigh more than three pounds. "Didelphimorphia" refers to the fact that, like all marsupials, these animals have two("di") wombs("delphus") Didelphimorphs are small to medium-sized marsupials, ranging in size from a small mouse to a large house cat. They tend to be semi-arboreal omnivores, although there are many exceptions. Most members of this taxon have long snouts, a narrow braincase, and a prominent sagittal crest. The dental formula is: 5.1.3.4 4.1.3.4 . By mammalian standards, this is an unusually full jaw. The incisors are very small, the canines large, and the molars are tricuspid. Didelphimorphs have a plantigrade stance (feet flat on the ground) and the hind feet have an opposable digit with no claw. Like some New World monkeys, opossums have prehensile tails. Like all marsupials, the fur consists of awn hair only, and the females have a pouch. The tail and parts of the feet bear scutes. The stomach is simple, with a small cecum. Notably, the male opossum has a forked penis bearing twin glandes. Opossums have a remarkably robust immune system, and show partial or total immunity to the venom of rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, and other pit vipers. Opossums are about eight times less likely to carry rabies than wild dogs, and about one in eight hundred opossums is infected with this virus. Although all living opossums are essentially opportunistic omnivores, different species vary in the amount of meat and vegetation they include in their diet. Members of the Caluromyinae are essentially frugivorous; whereas the lutrine opossum and Patagonian opossum primarily feed on other animals. The yapok (Chironectes minimus) is particularly unusual, as it is the only living semi-aquatic marsupial, using its webbed hindlimbs to dive in search of freshwater mollusks and crayfish. Most opossums are scansorial, well-adapted to life in the trees or on the ground, but members of the Caluromyinae and Glironiinae are primarily arboreal, whereas species of Metachirus, Monodelphis, and to a lesser degree Didelphis show adaptations for life on the ground.

Habitat:

This little one was found in the garden of our neighbour. In Los Palos Grandes, Altamira, Caracas, Venezuela at the foot of the Avila at 1000m above sea level. The opossum is found in tropical and subtropical forest, both primary and secondary, at altitudes up to 2200 m.[2] They use a wide range of nest sites. Most commonly they will create one in the hollow of a tree; however, they will also dig a burrow or nest in any dark location if nothing else is suitable (which often gets them in trouble with humans).

Notes:

The story is that the dogs of my neighbour frightened the mother Opossum who fled with two babies with the help of our neighbour who held the dogs away. Then the next day while watering a basket which held a fern plant and hung in the tree this baby fell out! They quickly picked it up and wrapped it in a blanket. It still had its eyes clothed. They started to feed it regularly and now a week later (they think it is two weeks old now) he opened its eyes and drinks and poops! Which is a big thing. This little fellow will be released back in the wild after it has reached a survival age. I could not wait to see it and was extremely happy when I did. The lovely thing about him/her is not just that she is cute but she wraps her tail around your finger and holds on to it like a little hand.

No species ID suggestions

2 Comments

Muckpuk
Muckpuk a year ago

Thank you doreen.chambers.14 I will pass that on to my neighbour!

Thanks for the rescue!!

Parroquia Chacao, Miranda, Venezuela

Lat: 10.51, Long: -66.84

Spotted on May 8, 2017
Submitted on May 10, 2017

Related spottings

Common Opossum Opossum Virginia Opossum Opossum

Nearby spottings

Juno Heliconian Johnstone's Whistling Frog Red postman Queens Tears