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Kangaroos, Opossums and Kin - Part 4

Updated on February 28, 2012

True opossums are now found only in the New World, although long ages ago they were present in Europe and Asia. Most opossums are tree dwellers, but a few live on the grassy plains of South America and one has taken to life in the water.

Most kinds have pouches, but some have only relies of such organs, and the babies are carried by their attachment to the mother's teats.

After they are partly grown, the young ride on the mother's back, clinging to the fur or curling their tails around that of their parent.

Opossums eat almost anything they can get, vegetable or animal -- the farmer's chickens, eggs, carrion, wild fruits of all sorts and some cultivated plants too.

In general appearance they are much like rats, with partly naked, scaly tails but with longer, more pointed snouts and naked muzzles. They are night loving animals, spending the day in hollow trees or in a hole in the ground.

Most opossums have prehensile tails. This means that the tail can be used to grasp things, like that of the New World monkeys and the Australian phalangers. An opossum can wrap its tail around a branch and swing from it comfortably.

North American Opossum with winter coat.
North American Opossum with winter coat. | Source

A Little Opossum Background

Although many kinds, varying from the size of a mouse to that of a cat, are found in South and Central America, only one, the Virginia opossum, ranges far into North America.

This species occurs as far north as Michigan and New Hampshire and seems to be invading new areas each year. Individuals from the Untied States are not very different from those found in Brazil.

Most are grayish -- the underparts and bases of the hairs on the back and sides are yellowish or whitish, and the tips of the hairs on the upper parts are brown or black.

Some animals are nearly white, while a few are almost black, but these are color varieties.

In the United States, especially in the South they are hunted for sport and for the pot -- some people especially enjoy opossum meat. In the fall of the year these marsupials are fat and tender. The meat is said to taste much like pork.

Opossums are solitary animals. Only rarely are two seen together, except young ones with their mother.

The mother may be as big as a cat, but the newborn young are no larger than a honeybee. Fifteen or more young may be born at a time. No more than thirteen can be suckled.

Usually by the time the young are large enough to come out of the pouch, only eight, or fewer remain.

For about two months, the youngsters remain in their mother's pouch, growing to the size of small rates. Then they come out to ride on the mother's back and to learn to take solid food.

They return to the pouch for protection for some time after this, but gradually shift for themselves.

The Murine Opossum

The murine opossum, often brought to this country in shipments of bananas, the woolly opossum and other small species differ only a little from the common Virginia opossum except for their small size.


The Yapok

The water opossum, or yapok, has webbed feet and otter like fur. It swims excellently, catching fish, crustaceans and water insects.

The yapok is handsomely marked -- its ground color is gray. A black stripe runs down the middle of the back, expanding into large blotches on the top of the head, over the shoulders, on the back, rump and base of the tail.

A black mask covers the face and eyes, while above the eyes there is a whitish streak, reaching to the front of the ear. The underparts are white. This animal occurs in Central and South America.

Chart of marsupials
Chart of marsupials | Source

Conservation Of Marsupials

Marsupials in general, with the exception of hardy opossums and a few phalangers,are species that are threatened with destruction. dogs, cats, rabbits and foxes, especially brought to Australia by man, have displaced and exterminated many unique pouched species.

Hunting and trapping threaten others. What a pity it would be if these antique types of mammals should pass from the world's scene.


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    • Suelynn profile image

      Suelynn 5 years ago from Manitoba, Canada

      Fabulous information and loved the videos. :) I joined HubPages yesterday and I'm feeling my way forward. I will definitely follow you. Thanks, Jerilee.

    • profile image

      mamun 6 years ago

      Great Pictures and Videos. Thanks for all...

    • Jerilee Wei profile image

      Jerilee Wei 6 years ago from United States

      Thanks weseppers! Glad you enjoyed both.

    • weseppers profile image

      weseppers 6 years ago

      Wow, nice hub. I am really happy to see the pic and read the articles. Thanks.

    • Jerilee Wei profile image

      Jerilee Wei 6 years ago from United States

      Thanks GusTheRedneck!

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 6 years ago from USA

      Hi Jerilee - Nice article. I enjoyed the read.

      Gus :-)))

    • Jerilee Wei profile image

      Jerilee Wei 6 years ago from United States

      Thanks Christopher Price! We used to have a lot of them back when we lived on a farm. Chickens hated them but they didn't bother me.

      Here in the big city, they are seen in Florida backyards, even here in our Historic District well manicured properties, but not as common as raccoons.

    • Christopher Price profile image

      Christopher Price 6 years ago from Vermont, USA

      Good stuff! When I was a youngster possums were a southern species, one we knew of but never saw in Vermont. Now their range has spread to include much of New England.

      One of the funniest sights I've seen was when I encountered a possum sniffing around our front porch late one night. He decided to beat a retreat. All I saw in the beam of the flashlight was a plump mound of gray fur with a naked rat-tail and four miniature pink palms flashing me low fives as he waddled away. "Bye...see ya'...gotta long!"


    • Jerilee Wei profile image

      Jerilee Wei 6 years ago from United States

      Thanks Eiddwen!

      Thanks Hello, hello!

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 6 years ago from London, UK

      Another great job on animals I have heard off. Thank you.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

      Another great hub on these beautiful animals.

      I am bookmarking these hubs so that i can refer back to them easily. I also loved the video clip.

      Thank you for sharing and take care.

    • Jerilee Wei profile image

      Jerilee Wei 6 years ago from United States

      Thanks salt!

    • salt profile image

      salt 6 years ago from australia

      Wonderful. Thanks!