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a family of mammals of the order Marsupialia. The body length ranges from 8 to 50 cm, and the tail is 9 to 53 cm long. The body is covered with short, downy fur; some species have long, projecting hairs in the pelage. The prehensile tail is either naked toward the tip or completely naked. The dental system, the limbs, and the pouch attest to the primitive nature of the didelphids.
There are 12 genera, embracing 65 species, distributed in North and South America, from southern Canada to central Argentina. The animals live in forests and thickets. Most forms are arboreal or terrestrial; some species, such as the yapock (Chironectes minimus), are semiaquatic. Didelphids are active at dusk and at night. They are omnivorous or insectivorous. The gestation period is 12 to 16 days. A litter contains as many as 18 young, which are carried in the mother’s pouch for 70 days. Didelphids are hunted for their meat. The opossum (Didelphis marsupialis) is used in laboratory experiments.