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The name 'opossum' was first used in western culture by Captain John Smith in 1608. It comes from the Algonquin name 'apasum', which means 'white animal.'
English: Virginia opossum
animalia; chordata, mammalia, didelphimorphia, didelphidae.
Susan Sonz, Mary-Lynn Culbert, N.Y., 2008
Description of the substance
The foto is taken from Wikipedia (6/11), the author of this work, Risssa, released it to the public domain (license: see here). Thank you very much!
The Virginia opossum is North America's only marsupial. A marsupial is an animal with a pouch, like a kangaroo or a koala. The opossum has been around for at least 70 million years and is one of Earth's oldest surviving mammals!
The opossum is about the size of a large house cat. It has a triangular head and a long pointed nose. It has grayish fur everywhere but on its ears, feet and tail. Its tail is prehensile. A prehensile tail is adapted for grasping and wrapping around things like tree limbs. The opossum can hang from its tail for a short time. Some people think opossums hang from their tails and sleep. They don't. Their tails aren't strong enough to hold them for that long!
The opossum has opposable hallux. A hallux is like a thumb. The opossum's "thumbs" are on its rear feet. The hallux helps it grasp branches when it climbs.
The opossum doesn't hibernate in the winter. It will often hole up during very cold weather because it runs the risk of getting frostbite on its hairless ears, tail and toes.
The Virginia opossum lives in a wide-variety of habitats including deciduous forests, open woods and farmland. It tends to prefer wet areas like marshes, swamps and streams.
The Virginia opossum is nocturnal and uses its keen sense of smell to locate food. It is omnivorous and eats just about anything, including lots of different plants and animals like fruits, insects, and other small animals. Sometimes, it eats garbage and carrion. Carrion is dead animals. Because so much carrion is roadkill, opossums are often killed by cars while looking for food on roadways.
Females usually have two litters a year. The babies are born after just 11-12 days, and are about the size of a honeybee. They are blind, furless, and do not look anything like adult opossums. After they are born, they crawl all by themselves into unaided into its mother's pouch and immediately begin to nurse. Soon after it begins to nurse, the nipple swells and completely fills the baby opossum's mouth, causing it to be firmly attached it to its mother. It remains attached until it is about 7 weeks old, at which time it has grown large enough to detach itself. This unusual adaptation helps make up for the short gestation period. Many opossums die during the first year of their life, and adults usually live only about two years in the wild.
The opossum is active only at night, and is a solitary animal.
The Virginia opossum has many behavioral adaptations it uses to survive. When threatened, it will exhibit behaviors like running, growling, belching, urinating and even defecating. Sometimes it will "play 'possum." and roll over, become stiff, drool, and its breathing will become slow and shallow. This coma-like state can last up to four hours Some predators will think the opossum is dead and go away!
Opossums, as a group, are among the oldest, most primitive mammals of the New World. Some scientists call them "living fossils" because they have survived relatively unchanged for at least 50 million years. They are intermediate in many respects between the most primitive of all mammals, the egg-laying monotremes of Australia, and the higher placental mammals. Their chief character is the marsupium or pouch that develops on the abdomen of females.