Opossum

Opossum Facts
Size Up to 19.6 inch (50 cm) (without tail)
Speed Up to 15.5 mph (25 km/h)
Weight Up to 13.3 lb (6 kg)
Lifespan 2 - 7 years
Food Fruit, insects, frogs
Predators Foxes, cats, birds of prey
Habitat North America
Order Didelphimorphia
Family Didelphidae
Scientific name Didelphis
Characteristics Big “rat” with a long tail

Opossums are large rat-like nocturnal animals that live in (brush)woods.

Opossums Feign Death

The opossum cannot move very quickly. So what should it do if an enemy approached? It rolls up, sticks out its tongue and stays lying down with open eyes. It also emits a foul smell. The opossum can get through this deception for up to six hours.

Opossum Opossum - Photo: Lisa Hagan/Shutterstock

Weird Walk

Opossums do not walk like dogs, cats, or horses. These put their paws or hooves offset (apart from the "pass" in horses, a special gait). Opossums move their limbs on one side of the body simultaneously – left front and back paw, then right front and back paw.

No Rabies

Opossums cannot be infected with rabies. They have an extremely effective immune system that can deal with many viruses and bacteria. They also have a rather low body temperature, which makes it difficult for bacteria to multiply.

Opossum Opossum-Baby - Photo: rthoma/Shutterstock

Grannies and Grandpas

Opossums have been roaming the earth for 70-80 million years, making them one of the oldest living "fossils".

And the winner is ...

Opossums are the biggest possums and can reach the size of domestic cats.

Happy Dentist

The Virginia opossum has 52 teeth – the largest number of teeth of all North-American mammals. Humans usually have only 32 teeth.

Opossum Opossum - Photo: Quadxeon/Shutterstock

Clean Rat

The opossum is very tidy. Before a female opossum gives birth, it thoroughly cleans its pouch for the young.

Reproduction

Generally, opossums are loners. The animals only come together during the mating season. With just about 12 - 14 days, they have the shortest gestation period of all mammals.

After birth, the babies are just about 0.39 - 0.78 inch (1 - 2 cm) long and weigh between 0.004 and 0.007 oz (0.13 and 0.20 g). After 2 - 3 months, the young animals leave the pouch for the first time and climb onto their mother’s back.

Opossum Opossum - Photo: GSPhotography/Shutterstock


Pupils are welcome to use this information at school for essays, presentations, posters or homework. All information appearing on this site has been precisely and thoroughly researched, nevertheless should you notice any errors, please do notify us via email.