We are going to discuss some facts about Opossums. Opossums feed on cockroaches, rats, and mice helping to keep the environment healthy and eradicates the threat of Lyme disease effects.
Opossums are 75 centimeters from nose to tail and weigh around 5-6.5 kilograms. Let’s dig deeper about the lifestyle and facts about Opossum generally also known as “Possum”.
What family do Opossums belong to?
An opossum is a mammal that belongs to the infraclass or family of Marsupial. The order of Opossum is Didelphimorphia with the Didelphidae family. There are altogether 108 species of the Opossum family.
Where were Opossums first located?
The origination of opossums started in South America. Later, they got spotted in North America as well. The largest species of Marsupials are present in New Hampshire. Their weights can vary from 0.8kg to 6.4 kg. Opossums, on average, are 1.2 kg.
Opossums are not known to be aggressive. However, they feed on animals, birds and are mostly carnivores. Researchers have found that opossums do attack humans. They defend themselves when they sense danger and tries to protect their young as well.
They are solitary mammals. They can stay in one area as long as food and water are available. Some opossum families can form a group and stay in a burrow or even under houses. They don’t dig holes or tunnels. Opossums try to use abandoned places where they don’t need much effort to make their own home.
Here are some interesting facts about the Opossum
1. Opossums can fake death
When opossums feel threatened or harm, they can play like the dead. They can pretend as if they got passed away to misguide predators as they are unconscious. The act is known as “Play Possum.”
Play possum is a psychological act that is involuntary. It is not intentional by these cute Lil opossums. It will not happen every time they feel threatened. When these opossums play possums, their saliva forms like a foam, lips get drawn back, and teeth get bared, the foul smell gets secreted from their anal gland. Also, their eyes will get fully closed or half-closed.
However, they get back to normal within few minutes to few hours. The first sign when they feel conscious is twitching their ears.
2. Opossums love ticks
Opossums kill and eat 93% of ticks across their path. A single opossum can eat almost 4000 ticks every season. Mostly, black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks, are their favorite. These ticks are responsible for spreading Lyme disease. Thanks to opossums, they do reduce the spread of Lyme diseases.
According to the research, a group of biologists from Cary Institution gave 100 ticks to eat to species like opossums, squirrels, chipmunks. Guess who won the race? Opossum killed and ate the most ticks compared to other animals. No doubt their menu contains about 5000 ticks per season.
3. Opossums have sharp memories
Opossums have keen memories, especially when it comes to food. They can easily remember on which path did their prey go? They can recall the memory of substances that are toxic up to the year after trying them once.
They are smart creatures. Opossums are even better than dogs when it comes to remembering about food. According to the research, opossums actually did great on memory tests.
It is the only marsupial species with intelligent memory. They also scored better than rats, rabbits, cats, and other animals in the memory test.
4. Opossums are quick
Opossums are agile and curious. They are one of the best tree climbers. They have honed, opposable thumbs on their hind feet. To grasp and wrap around the branches while climbing and jumping they use a prehensile tail. Sometimes they even hang on their back end and sleep.
Also, opossums love to play around trees. They even build their nest on the tree holes. Even though they don’t stay in the nest for long, both male and female opossums work together to build nests. However, in freezing temperatures, the tip of their tails tend to fall off.
5. Opossums have pouches
Since opossums are marsupials, they have pouch-like kangaroos. Mother is itself a nest for their babies. They give birth to live young babies. The newborn of the opossum is usually blind and deaf.
To complete the baby’s development, baby opossums need to crawl towards their mom’s pouch or into the birth canal. Opossums use their sacs to carry their babies after they are born.
Opossums’ sacs play a crucial part in the reproduction process. These marsupials do not have a gestation period during their pregnancy like other mammals. Babies defecate in mother’s pouch. Opossum mothers need to clean it frequently.
6. Opossums can make strange sounds
Opossums are usually quiet. However, they can make some weird noises like “Choo.” Sneezing noises and soft noises when they need to call their mother. Male opossums make some clicking sounds during mating season to attract female opossums.
When they feel danger or if they get threatened, they make a hissing or growling sound. While being aggressive, opossums also make a “Zook-Zook” sound.
7. Opossums can be smelly
When opossums come into your yard and play possum, they can emit foul like smell that can be disgusting to your nose. The foul odor is similar to the decaying of the corpse. When their feigning reactions get triggered, they secrete this type of smell. It is one of the best tactics used by opossums to get rid of their predators.
8. Opossums are immune to rabies
Unlike other animals, opossums are highly resistant to rabies. Additionally, they are also immune to some venoms of rattlesnakes and cottonmouths. Including opossums, honey badgers, and ground squirrels are also naturally protected snake venoms.
They even eat venomous snakes. So, the resistance to snake poison has naturally developed in the opossum’s body.
9. Opossums have black eyes
Opossums’ most noticeable feature is their black eyes. They have pair of opaque eyes and are mostly recognizable by others. They do have a white part and iris part in their eyes. Their pupil is so large, due to which we can’t see the white and iris part. It’s completely black from a distance.
Their pupil gets exaggerated and dilated that allows other nocturnal animals to see after the sun goes down. Once the eyes of baby opossum get opened, they can see the world. They are naturally nocturnal.
They clearly see at night. Since they have keen night vision, the opossum has weak eyesight during day time. These are some interesting facts about the opossum.
(Last Updated On: February 9, 2021)