Weight: Opssums weigh about 8.8 to 13.2 lb (4 to 6 kg)
Average life span: The life period of an opossum is the shortest for mammals of their size. They generally live for about 2 – 4 years. The majority are killed by predators and in road kills.
Habitat: Opossums were initially inhabitant of the eastern U.S. During the Great Depression, they were brought in to the western region.
Opossums resemble a full-size rat. They are closely related to the kangaroo and koala bear. The opossum (also called possum) is the only known marsupial (female with a pouch) in North America. They are approximately the size of a cat, sport black to gray fur, and have a long, pointy pink nose. Opossums also known as Possums, have more than 100 species across 19 genera. This makes them the largest order of Marsupials in the western side of the hemisphere.
Opossums are nocturnal creatures that are more active during the night. They are non-aggressive creatures and tend to avoid confrontations. They are non-destructive by nature. The smallest of these species can be compared to the size of a mouse while the largest just exceeds the size of a big domestic cat. Generally the opossums sport long snouts, narrow braincases and a prominent crest. Their dental features consist of small incisors, large canines and tricuspid molars. Like some new world monkeys, the opossums have long prehensile tails that are used as aids for climbing.
Female opossums sport a pouch like all marsupials. During birth the infant crawls into the mother’s pouch where their body develops in the next few weeks. This female opossums can give birth to a large number of infants out of which only very few survive. Opossums are mostly solitary and nomadic creatures that will move along for foraging and hunting. They will often settle in a single area where water and food is abundantly available. Opossums are nocturnal beings by nature. So most of their hunting activities take place in the night. Opossums are omnivores and their diet primarily comprises carrion, insects, snakes, birds, frogs, slugs and earthworms. They can even feast on small mammals. Opossums are usually considered scavengers hence they are often spotted near human settlements scavenging through garbage and dump yards.
One quirky trait about this marsupial is that when threatened or in danger, they will imitate the appearance and foul stench of dead animals. They will intuitively draw back their lips, create saliva foams around their mouth and half close the eyes to pretend they are dead, while their anal gland secretes a liquid with an extremely foul stink. This clever ploy keeps away their predators and helps them escape.
People are mostly a threat to the opossums due to hunting for their meat and pelt in some nations. In some parts of South and Central America, their tail is believed to enhance fertility. In some culture will the opossum’s oil is believed to be a remedy for arthritis. Their pelts are also much sought after in the fashion fur market.
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