Virginia Opossum

Didelphis virginiana

Order: 

Didelphimorphia

Family: 

Didelphidae

While Didelphis virginiana, Virginia opossum or simply called a possum, may have loosely resemble a rodent, they are actually marsupials (2). They can reach lengths of 90 cm, with females on average two-thirds the size of males (2). While they avoid elevations over 1,000 m, D. virginiana inhibit a wide range of environments (1)(2). Their body is covered in long light gray hairs and they have a short tail that is capable of grasping branches (2). D. virginiana can have several litters per year (1). Gestation only last around 12 days meaning their young are born extremely undeveloped (1)(2). Young remain in their mother’s pouch at least 2 months after birth (2). They are generalized omnivores eating anything they can (1). Opossums are also known to “play dead” when placed in highly stressful situations (3).

 

(1) Harris, J. (n.d.). VIRGINIA OPOSSUM Didelphis virginiana (pp. 1-3) (United States of America, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California Interagency Wildlife Task Group) (R. Duke, Ed.). Sacramento, CA: California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

(2) Jameson, E. W., Jr., & Peeters, H. J. (2004). Mammals of California (Revised ed.). Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

(3) Mcmanus, J. J. (1974). Didelphis virginiana. Mammalian Species, (40), 1-7.

(Photograph) Alden M. Johnson © California Academy of Sciences