opossum


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opossum

(əpŏs`əm, pŏs`–), name for several marsupialsmarsupial
, member of the order Marsupialia, or pouched mammals. With the exception of the New World opossums and an obscure S American family (Caenolestidae), marsupials are now found only in Australia, Tasmania, New Guinea, and a few adjacent islands.
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, or pouched mammals, of the family Didelphidae, native to Central and South America, with one species extending N to the United States. With the exception of an obscure group found in South American forests, opossums are the only living marsupials outside the Australia–New Guinea region. Extremely abundant despite the encroachment of civilization and apparently little changed over millions of years, they owe their success to their adaptability, omnivorous diet, and rapid reproductive rate. Opossums are more or less arboreal, nocturnal animals, with long noses, naked ears, prehensile tails, and opposable hind toes tipped with flat pads. They eat small animals, eggs, insects, and fruit. The common, or Virginia, opossum, Didelphis marsupialis, ranges from Argentina to the N United States; it is found mostly in wooded areas and is common in the SE United States. The common opossum resembles a large rat, with a white face and long, coarse fur of mixed white-tipped and black-tipped hairs. It spends time both in trees and on the ground and makes nests of leaves, usually in holes in trees. When frightened it goes into a state of collapse; this involuntary "playing possum" sometimes saves it from predators, who lose interest in an apparently dead animal. The female usually has the typical marsupial pouch, although it is absent in some of the South American species. The 6 to 18 young are born after a gestation of 12 days and weigh 1-15 oz. (1.9 grams); they crawl through the mother's fur to the pouch where they are carried and nursed for three months. After emerging, they ride on the mother's back, clinging to her fur or tail with their own tails. Because it raids domestic poultry and corn, the opossum is hunted in the South as a pest, as well as for food and sport. Among the other opossum species are the tiny mouse opossums (Marmosa species) and the yapok, or water opossum (Chironectes minimus), which has webbed feet and leads a semiaquatic existence. The yapok ranges from Guatemala to Brazil. Opossums are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Marsupialia, family Didelphidae.

Bibliography

See study by J. F. Keefe (1967).

opossum

[ə′päs·əm]
(vertebrate zoology)
Any member of the family Didelphidae in the order Marsupialia; these mammals are arboreal and mainly omnivorous, and have many incisors, with all teeth pointed and sharp.

opossum

1. any thick-furred marsupial, esp Didelphis marsupialis (common opossum), of the family Didelphidae of S North, Central, and South America, having an elongated snout and a hairless prehensile tail
2. any of various similar animals, esp the phalanger, Trichosurus vulpecula, of the New Zealand bush
References in periodicals archive ?
The colonists traded with the Algonquin tribes, and the opossum got its name from their word apasum, meaning "white animal." These mammals are found in the United States east of the Rocky Mountains and along the West Coast, as well as in Mexico, Central America, and British Columbia.
Opossum meat is cited as one of thesources of animal protein appreciated in the diet of Europeans who arrived in the country during the period of the great Portuguese navigations (Hue, 2009).
Release date- 01082019 - Short-tailed opossums are cute little marsupials which live in South America, but a new discovery shows they had a fierce fossil relative.
At approximately 2130 h, each of the opossum's food bowls were removed, cleaned, and a small amount of water was added to ensure the salamanders did not desiccate throughout the duration of the trial.
The first pictorial representation of the opossum (by European cultures) can be found near the words "terra nova" (New World) in a corner of a 1516 world map.
The first specimen-verified documentation of the Virginia Opossum from the Trans-Pecos is from a single specimen taken from El Paso (El Paso County) in 1924 (Schmidly 1977).
Rats stowed away on ships, and settlers introduced opossums for the fur trade and stoats to control rabbits.
The black-eared opossum Didelphis aurita (Wied-Neuwied, 1826) is one of the largest marsupials in Brazil (Gardner 2007).
Part realism (how an opossum lives in the world) and part fantasy (opossum rooftop disco in the city), Appleblossom the Possum is a fun read, and the illustrations are a perfect accompaniment to the lighthearted story.
Though not very popular here, opossum is a southern specialty.
The Texas Biomed researchers found that the application of lotion containing sunscreen to infant opossums led to a 10-fold reduction in pre-melanotic lesions (known to progress to melanoma), in comparison to infant opossums receiving lotion that did not contain sunscreen.
A recent report has suggested that Virginia opossums (Didelphis virginiana) may also provide surveillance potential for persistent TB in North America [17].