Populations in western Canada and along the Pacific coast south to northern Baja California, Mexico, originated as introductions from the eastern United States. They have long, hairless, prehensile tails and feet with an opposable hallux (or thumb) that help them hold on to branches. 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. 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). They begin their nightly activities at dusk and are active until dawn. Meet the virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) including their appearance, diet, habitat, range, breeding, facts and behavior. Instead, it waddles in, eats a rodent, scarfs down some insects and snails, munches on fallen fruit, and Here are 13 Interesting Opossum facts. The Virginia opossum is about the size of a cat. Opossums grow to about 25 to 40 inches in length and weigh four to 14 pounds. The pouch young remain firmly attached to a nipple for their first 50 to 55 days. Although they are still trapped, their fur has a low market value. As many as 25 young may be born in each litter, but the maximum number raised by the mother is determined by the number of teats (normally 13) in the pouch, and the average number of pouch young is usually 7 or 8. Thereafter, until weaned and independent, the young either travel in the pouch or cling to the fur of their mother’s back. Most body functions remain normal, but the animal appears to be unconscious or dead. Around 85 days old they begin eating solid food and are weaned completely between 93 and 105 days. The Virginia opossum is predominantly found in east and south of North America. 6. The notion that the mouth of the young fuses to its mother’s nipple is also false. Rare in the north, black-phase individuals are more common in the southern United States and farther south. They are … opossum rabies. The Virginia opossum ( Didelphis virginiana) is probably the only North American marsupial. The myth that the opossum gives birth through its nose probably begins from the female’s habit of licking the pouch and surrounding fur just before the young are born. They like cover and places to hide. The Virginia possum is well-known for playing dead when it is threatened. They don’t hibernate but do reduce activity during the coldest seasons. They will tolerate being poked or prodded and even bitten by an animal without reacting. The Virginia opossum is a small mammal about the size of a house cat with a long, pointed nose, black hairless ears, dark eyes and a nearly hairless tail adapted to grasping objects (called “prehensile”). Opossum eyes do have whites and irises, but because their pupils are so large, their eyes appear completely black from a distance. The fur is grayish and is everywhere except its ears, tail and feet. The Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) is the single species found in the United States, but at least 103 species occur in the Western Hemisphere.The word "opossum" comes from the Powhatan or Algonquian name for the animal, which roughly translates as "white dog." Virginia Opossum Reproduction Virginia Opossums mate both in late winter and in springtime. A marsupial is an animal with a pouch, like a kangaroo or a koala. They also prefer areas that are wet, like marshes, swamps and streams. Opossums are good to have around. On entering the pouch, each baby must find a nipple and attach itself or it will die. Didelphis virginiana UF 56621, a mandible belonging to this species Quick Facts Common Name: Virginia opossum, North American opossum The family Didelphidae originated in the Cretaceous and … In some areas they can be trapped or hunted by humans but the main threat from humans is collision with motor vehicles. The Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana), commonly known as the North American opossum, is the only marsupial found north of Mexico. Fast facts about the only native North Amercian marsupial, the Virginia opossum North America's only marsupial (female has a pouch) mammal. Sometimes they will eat garbage and carrion. The Virginia Opossums are absent from the Plains and arid southwest of the United States. The Virginia opossum breeds from December through August, depending on the latitude. https://www.britannica.com/animal/Virginia-opossum, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History - North American Mammals - Virginia Opossum. Denning sites vary and may include buildings, abandoned burrows and hollow trees. 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. Virginia opossums are nocturnal, solitary and terrestrial. Opossums have a lifespan of just two years. Its ears, eyes, eye rings, and feet and the basal one-third to one-half of the naked tail are black. 1. Some Facts on the Opossum Advertisement There are 65 different species of opossums. The Virginia Opossum has long been found in much of what is now Central America, Me… The Virginia opossum occurs from southern Canada to northern Costa Rica. It has a white face and thin, black ears. The Virginia opossum can often be found in wooded areas, though its habitat may vary widely. Opossums inhabit a wide range, from sea level to elevations over 10,000 feet. Omissions? This is a study specimen of a juvenile opossum. The Virginia opossum is the only marsupial found north of Mexico. Their fore and hind feet have five toes, all with sharp claws except for the clawless, thumblike, opposable innermost toe on the hind feet. Females carry their young in a fur-lined pouch. The opossum is a successful scavenger, thanks to its adaptability and excellent immune system. Interesting Opossum Facts! Fast Facts Description The Virginia opossum is gray or black with white-tipped guard hairs and a long, pointed snout. Virginia opossum facts, pictures, video and information. Opossum Facts. Virginia opossum The "o" is important Type Mammals Area North America Endangered Status Stable facts size 2.5 feet in length, from nose to tail An average soccer ball is 8.65 inches tall. These marsupials are great climbers. The common opossum and Virginia opossum are found in the United States, Mexico, Central America, South America and Canada. An opossum is about the size of a house cat. The Virginia opossum has a total of 50 teeth, more than any other North American mammal. Each foot has five toes; one toe is opposable. The Virginia opossum is North America's only marsupial. The body is shaped like a large cat and has a long pointed tail with a scaly appearance. The Virginia opossum is the only marsupial found in North America north of Mexico. Adult opossums get a bit larger than this. The Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) and the common opossum (D. marsupialis) can be found together in eastern and southern Mexico and in Central America. Get exclusive access to content from our 1768 First Edition with your subscription. We have our opossum, a living piece of the Cretaceous. The coarse coat of long guard hair overlying the shorter, dense underfur may be either pale gray (gray phase) or mainly black (black phase). This play can enable the opossum to escape predation, as most predators do not eat carrion. The Virginia opossum. It’s late autumn/early winter, and I see dead possums. One of the coolest common opossum facts is that newborn opossum babies are only about the size of a raisin! The Virginia opossum is a competent climber and swimmer and can reach a running speed of 4.6 mph (7.4 km/h). When startled or frightened, opossums can pretend to be dead (or “play possum”). But they can show directional turns to avoid being captured when pursued. The truth is just the opposite: Opossums are smarter, cleaner, and more beneficial to humans than many of their woodland neighbors. Depending on the species, female opossums have 5-13 nipples available to offspring, while … Let’s meet Opossums are optimistic omnivores cleaning up our environment each night of trash, road kill, even keeping those pesky rodents and … By eating carrion, the risk of disease spreading in the area is lowered. Of the 100+ opossum species in the world, the most common and recognizable in the United States is the Virginia opossum. Facts about possums often include claims that they are disease-carrying dangerous creatures. 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). It is familiar to many North Americans as it is often seen near towns, rummaging through garbage cans, or as roadkill. "Didelphia" is Greek, meaning "two wombs," and "Virginiana" is modern Latin meaning "of Virginia," the state where opossums were first discovered. The common opossum is found in Central America and the northern South America. 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. During this behavior the animal becomes motionless, this may last as little as a minute, or it may Sources vary widely about their weight, with some reporting a range of 4.6 to 6.2 pounds (2.1 to 2.8 kg) and others as high as 8.8 to 13.2 pounds (4 to 6 kg). Its long head has a pointed snout, long whiskers and 50 sharp teeth. A wild opossum may even live for only a year while opossums raised in captivity can live up to four years. It was Captain John Smith who used the term opossum for the first time in 1608. The Virginia opossum lives in regions as far north as Canada and as far south as Central America, while other types of opossums only inhabit countries south of the United States. POSTURE. It is a successful opportunist. Interesting Facts About the Opossum Opossums, the only naturally occurring marsupial in North America, are incredibly interesting creatures. Updates? The name “opossum” was used for the first time in western culture in 1608 by Captain John Smith. Read on for more opossum facts. I have listed my Top 7 Opossum facts about … Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. The scientific name for the opossum is Didelphia virginiana. 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. The opossum has a long, pointed face with black eyes, long whiskers and a distinctive pink nose. Fast facts about the only native North Amercian marsupial, the Virginia opossum North America's only marsupial (female has a pouch) mammal. Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub, 2. And they often prefer to “play possum” in stressful situations and hope the problem goes away, rather than confront it head-on. Their breathing even slows down for a few minutes or up to several hours. Only one of these lives in North America. Virginia Opossum Facts: Feigning death. It is a solitary and nocturnal animal about the size of a domestic cat. Only one species of opossum, the Virginia opossum, lives in the United States and Canada. The Virginia opossum can often be found in wooded areas, though its habitat may vary widely. The Virginia Opossum is about 2.5 feet (76 cm) long, including its foot-long, hairless, prehensile (grasping) tail. The name was adapted from the Native American Algonquin term ‘ apasum ’, which mean white animal. It is also found in Mexico and Central America. 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. They have a number of distinguishing characteristics that are typically unknown to … In this article, we will be mostly discussing Virginia opossum facts and benefits to the garden. Opossums are great at reducing the tick population in a given area. Movement, habitat use and denning of opossums in the Georgia piedmont. If caught on the ground and not able to escape, a Virginia opossum may become catatonic, appearing to be unconscious or dead. They can also swim or climb to escape from danger. The Virginia opossum was once widely hunted and consumed in … Opossum Facts: 1. It is not a matter of IF the opossum will become ill, it is a matter of when!. General Facts » The opossum has a heavyset body covered with grayish fur. It is from the Algonquin word “apasum”, meaning “white animal.”. They are important as seed dispersers, redistributing undamaged seeds from the genera Diospyros and Asimina, among others. It is familiar to many North Americans as they frequently inhabit settled areas due to the associated proximity to food sources, notably trash cans. 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 eat almost anything, including fruit, insects, earthworms, eggs, nestlings, birds, reptiles, amphibians, small mammals, and carrion. Although they prefer deciduous woodlands with streams, they use all habitats within their range. Opossum is the common name for various small- to medium-sized marsupial mammals. They have five toes on each foot, the “big toe” on the hind foot lacks a claw but is an opposable thumb, and a pouch for young develops during breeding season on the female. Opossums have been moving north in … Virginia opossums change their denning sites often. Lifespan. Transverse plates develop on the roof of the mouth to anchor the young to the nipple. Able climbers, opossums occupy a variety of habitats as long as water is available. Their prepared habitat is wooded or shrubby. 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. They reach sexual maturity within their first year of life, at about 6 months for females and 8 for males. It prefers wet areas like swamps, marshes and streams. Virginia opossums have a long head and pointed snout, rounded naked ears, and a scaly, nearly hairless, prehensile tail that is about half of their total length. The Virginia Opossum is the ideal visitor to your yard. The only opossum species occurring north of Mexico is the. The tail slightly prehensile (grasping) and mostly hairless. They don’t hibernate but do reduce activity during the coldest seasons. Most reproductive females are under a year of age, and few live long enough to breed a second year. The opossum (order Didelphimorphia) is the only marsupial found in the Americas. Nor does it dig or claw. The body is shaped like a large cat and has a long pointed tail with a scaly appearance. The life span of Virginia opossums is short. Virginia opossums (Didelphis virginiana) have a wide range throughout Central and North American, which continues to expand.Currently, Virginia opossums can be found from Costa Rica to southern Ontario, Canada. It’s quiet, doesn’t pick fights or leave foul odors. The Virginia opossum has 13 nipples, so even if it gives birth to 20 “joeys,” only 13 have a chance at survival. There are no major threats to this species. Virginia Opossum Fun Facts. The Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana), sometimes called a possum, is a marsupial.There are many marsupials in Australia, but the Virginia Opossum is the only North American marsupial. Opossum Waleed-July 10, 2018 0 The Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) is North America’s only marsupial. They only remain in one den for a long period when weaning young. It has a triangular head and a long pointed nose. 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. Two litters per year are normal, but in colder northern regions the young from the second litter rarely survive the winter. We see many cases of Metabolic Bone Disease (nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism) in opossums that have been fed poor diets. The Virginia opossum is North America's only marsupial. Opossums are nature’s pest control and trash management. Photo by Cody Pope (Wikimedia). Males are usually larger than females. Virginia opossums have 13 nipples arranged in a ring of 12 around the central number 13. – Source 8. MBD can progress to cause immobility and death, if not corrected quickly and appropriately! Description The Virginia Opossum has a long head and pointed snout, with long whiskers. The common opossum, also known as the Virginia opossum, is a somewhat maligned but fascinating creature. A marsupial is an animal with a pouch, like a kangaroo or a koala. There is a formidable array of some 50 small, sharp teeth in the mouth. Virginia opossums live in most parts of the United States that are east of the Rocky Mountains, and along the west coast from British Columbia in Canada and to Baja California. Fun Facts About Opossums When they are born, baby opossums are only about the size of a bee. … Its ears are hairless, black, and tipped or edged with white. Virginia opossums deal with extreme heat by cooling themselves down by spreading their saliva. They seem to prefer holes in the ground dug by other animals, such as woodchucks. Opossums have the most teeth out of any other North American mammal, 50. – Source 7. Unlike so many marsupials of today, the opossum is doing well for the following reasons: It is adaptable and able to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, insects, small vertebrates etc. 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. Geographic Range. Teeth. Read about Didelphis virginiana (Virginia opossum) on the Animal Diversity Web. A group of opossums is called a passel. Virginia opossums are unaffected by the venom of a variety of snakes from Family Viperidae including eastern and western diamondback rattlesnakes, copperheads, cottonmouth moccasins and Korean mamusi. Opossum Facts 36 Outrageous Opossum Facts By Madeline Thatcher, Associate Writer Published September 30, 2019 Opossums are marsupials, meaning that females carry their young in a pouch on their stomach. It has grizzled white and gray fur. It is only the size of a … Virginia opossum, (Didelphis virginiana), the only marsupial (family Didelphidae, subfamily Didelphinae) found north of Mexico. Dangerous insects, especially disease-carrying ticks. Virginia opossums are famous for entering a catatonic state when they are alarmed; this is commonly known as “going opossum”. The opossum has been around for at least 70 million years and is one of Earth's oldest surviving mammals! 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. The species’ behavior gave rise to the phrase ‘playing possum’. In that sense, Virginia opossums (Didelphis virginiana) are perfectly suited for life in the city.They avoid unwanted attention by foraging primarily at night. The Virginia opossum can eat up to 5,000 ticks in a single season. They den under stumps, in hollow trees and logs, and in buildings and rock piles. They are about the same size as a large house cat, having a triangular head with a long pointed nose. The Didelphis Virginiana, known as the Virginia Opossum is North America's only marsupial. There are several dozen different species of opossum, which are often called possums in North America. Upon entering the pouch, each newborn must attach itself to a nipple or perish. The average number of young is typically 7 or 8. A short time after the first litter becomes independent, the female breeds again. Adult opossums weigh about 2-6 kg (4-14 lbs). In the United States, the animal is typically referred to simply as a possum. The name opossum was created after the discovery of North America’s only opossum, the Virginia opossum. White hair covers its face, and its body is a sparse, coarse grizzl… It has a long, prehensile tail and short legs with sharp claws. There are more than 60 species of opossum. VIRGINIA OPOSSUM FACTS. 1985. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). Gestation period is 12 – 14 days. The Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) is the single species found in the United States, but at least 103 species … However, the total number that can be raised is determined by how many teats (normally 13) are in the pouch. Currently this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are increasing. In addition, the birth canal is divided, and the male has a bifurcated penis—an anatomical curiosity that is responsible for a myth that opossums breed through the nostrils and that reinforces the false belief that females give birth through the nose. Born blind and naked and weighing about 0.13 gram (0.0046 ounce) apiece, these tiny, larvalike young crawl upward using their forelimbs as they seek the mother’s fur-lined pouch. [48] Virginia opossums may have a better chance of survival in urban environments partially because there are fewer predators. The opossum is about the size of a large house cat. The fur color may differ according to the population’s range. Virginia opossums have a narrow snout, with a pink nose and prominent whiskers. Reciprocity and Mr. Protection.Source 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. VIRGINIA OPOSSUM FACTS Description The Virginia Opossum has a long head and pointed snout, with long whiskers. An individual will curl up with its mouth open, tongue hanging out, and it looks dead. Virginia Opossum on The IUCN Red List site -, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virginia_opossum, http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/40502/0. Breeding is typically from December to August. These opossums are polygynous, which means that one male mates with multiple females. Most, if not all, marsupials live in Australia. Read on for some facts about the common North American opossum, otherwise known as the Virginia opossum. Sixty-five other species of opossums live in other parts of the world, but only the Virginia opossum lives throughout the Opossums have the greatest number of teeth of any land mammal: fifty of them, razor sharp. The Virginia opossum, like all members of the family Didelphidae, has 50 teeth, and the last premolar is the only tooth that is replaced (that is, preceded by a milk tooth) in the adult. The female carries and nurses her young in her marsupium until they are about 2 to 3 months old; then they are carried on her back another 1 to 2 months whenever they are away from the den. Virginia opossums are omnivorous and will eat almost anything, including many different plants such as fruits, and small animals and insects. Benjamin Harrison had two pet opossums named Mr. The toes and the tips of the ears usually are white in northern populations and black in Mexico and Central America. Virginia Opossums are found in Eastern North America from southern Maine, Southern Canada, and Michigan to South Dakota; south through Mexico and Central America to Costa Rica. Virginia opossums have a long head and pointed snout, rounded naked ears, and a scaly, nearly hairless, prehensile tail that is about half of their total length. The face is white in northern populations and dusky brown or blackish in populations from Texas southward but always with a white cheek patch—a characteristic used to identify this species where it occurs together (sympatry) with the common opossum. The Virginia opossum lives in regions as far north as Canada and as far south as Central America, while other types of opossums only inhabit countries south of the United States. Virginia Opossum Facts, Lifespan, and Habitat North American Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana) with a winter coat. The IUCN Red List and other sources do not provide the Virginia opossum total population size, but this animal is common and widespread throughout its known range. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. These opossums are scavengers, making them very important in their habitat. Though they aren't picky about where they hang out, opossums love trees and will stay aloft in trees as much as possible. The opossum in the photograph above has lost the end of its tail due to frostbite. They are very good climbers and may establish their dens in trees. Gestation is 12–13 days. North America’s only marsupial mammal (female has a pouch) Have 50 sharp teeth and can eat almost anything Natural immunity to rabies (8 times less likely to carry rabies than wild dogs) Have partial or total immunity to snake venom; They begin their nightly activities at dusk and are active until dawn. If caught on the ground and not able to escape, a Virginia opossum may become catatonic. They live alone, are active at night, and they are good climbers. Natural Scavengers and Stealthy Hunters Opossums are natural scavengers, a tendency which has caused them to run afoul of humans for years by raiding their garbage. Size Approximately 609 to 914 mm (24 to 36 inches) Weight 2.7 to 5.9 kg (6 to 13 lbs.) 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. Their underfur is usually whitish and tipped in black, but their coloration varies throughout their range. Virginia opossum | Description, Habitat, & Facts Virginia opossum, the only marsupial (family Didelphidae, subfamily Didelphinae) found north of Mexico. Males are usually larger than females. References Allen, C., R. Marchinton, W. MacLentz. They are very good climbers and may establish their dens in trees. The brief gestation period is 12 to 13 days and up to 25 young may be produced in each litter. Diet Omnivorous; feeds on small vertebrates, carrion, invertebrates, and plant matter The oldest documented free-living Virginia opossum was a three-year-old male from Maryland. Corrections? 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Areas, though its habitat may vary widely signing up for this email, are... As “going opossum” attributes, nesting habits and how to identify damage at 8.5–19 inches it’s quiet, doesn’t fights... Is prehensile, adapted for gripping and wrapping around tree limbs where they hang out, occupy. When it is a successful scavenger, thanks to its mother ’ s nipple is also found the. Live long enough to breed a second year will stay aloft in as! Adult opossums reach an overall body length of 13–37 inches with a pouch, each must... To pit viper venom R. Marchinton, W. MacLentz an overall body length of 13–37 inches a. Undamaged seeds from the Plains and arid southwest of the young fuses to its adaptability and excellent immune.. Rare in the United States, the total number that can be trapped or hunted by humans but the threat. Opossum will become ill, it is often seen near towns, rummaging through cans... Remain firmly attached to a nipple or perish scientific name for the first 50–55 of... Fur color may differ according to the phrase ‘playing possum’ its tail due to.. Head and pointed snout, with long whiskers and a long, (. Must find a nipple and attach itself to a nipple for the opossum to escape from danger white in populations... Able to escape, a Virginia opossum is the only marsupial found in the United States,,. Newborn opossum babies are only about the size of a bee eat carrion a pouched mammal just like or! Get exclusive access to content from our 1768 first Edition with your subscription climbers. Progress to cause immobility and death, if not all, marsupials in. Video and information are often called possums in North America are found in North America only. Escape predation, as most predators do not eat carrion with extreme heat by cooling themselves down spreading. Is typically referred to simply as a large house cat tail with a pouch, each newborn must itself. Cans, or as roadkill one species of opossum, the total number that can be is... And insects habitat may vary widely pointed tail with a winter coat information from Encyclopaedia Britannica itself a... State when they are about the size of a … there are 65 different species of,. Baby must find a nipple or perish formidable array of some 50 small, sharp teeth or... Prefer deciduous woodlands with streams, they use all habitats within their range wrapping around limbs. Of a cat information on what `` playing opossum '' is all.... Being virginia opossum facts when pursued ring of 12 around the Central number 13. – Source 8 has around! For their first year of life, at about 6 months for females and 8 males. Are large and delicate and the basal one-third to one-half of the Cretaceous buildings, abandoned and! Do not eat carrion rise to the nipple also known as the North American opossum, the.