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).

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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.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

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
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
The karyotypes of didelphid marsupials are characterized by a relatively low number of chromosomes, with diploid numbers of 2n = 22 in the larger species of opossums (Didelphis, Philander, Chironectes and Lutreolina) and one species of "mouse-opossum" Tlacuatzin canescens (Engstrom and Gardner, 1988; Zarza et al., 2003), 2n = 18 in the shorttailed opossums of the genus Monodelphis and 2n = 14 (by far the most common diploid number) in Metachirus, Caluromys and five genera of small-bodied "mouse opos sums" (Gracilinanus, Marmosa, Marmosops, Micoureus and Thylamys; Carvalho et al., 2002, and references cited therein).
A group of opossums in the Didelphidae family have developed a special blood protein that makes the opossum especially susceptible to the venom of poisonous snakes.
The park is located in a natural area of tropical forest also inhabited by many opossums (D albiventris), reptiles, and small mammals.
Short-tailed opossums are one of the smallest marsupials, with a body length of only four to five inches.
Bob Foutz was just returning to work from a vacation when he saw it--a grisly welcome-back "gift." A dead opossum was lodged inside the pool skimmer.
In your Spring 2002 edition, you have a photo of an opossum ["Nature's cradle," p.
felis in opossums and their fleas collected during 1998 in south Texas.
* Raccoons and opossums: Five front and rear toes make these animal tracks identifiable.
Cone and Cone (1970) studied the behaviour of two virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) under FR schedules.
On each back foot (see photo at right), opossums have a toe that works like a human thumb.
To determine if varying amounts of urbanization affect the habitat dynamics of opossums we set motion-triggered camera traps in city parks, cemeteries, forest preserves, and golf courses along three 50 km transects that originated in downtown Chicago, Illinois, U.SA.
Concluding, opossums can be a great model for the study of the anatomy of wild animals.