Opossum: characteristics, what it eats, in Brazil

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possums are mammalsmarsupials belonging to the Didelphidae family. They are omnivorous animals that can feed on small animals, fruits, eggs and even garbage. They have a body that resembles that of a mouse, despite not being rodents.

 In general, skunks are between 40 cm and 50 cm long, have a long, prehensile tail, elongated and pointed snout, short limbs and developed ears. They are animals with a solitary and nocturnal habit, being observed that, during the day, they usually take shelter inside the hollows of trees.

Read more: Koala — marsupial mammal found in Australia

Topics in this article

  • 1 - Abstract about skunks
  • 2 - Characteristics of the possum
  • 3 - Brazilian Opossums
  • 4 - Feeding of possums
  • 5 - Defense of the possums
  • 6 - Reproduction of possums
  • 7 - Opossums and humans

Abstract about possums

  • skunks are animals which belong to the marsupial group and the Didelphidae family.

  • They are nocturnal, solitary and arboreal or terrestrial animals.

  • They are omnivorous and can feed on small animals, fruits, eggs and even garbage.

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  • To protect themselves, they emit a characteristic sound and show their teeth. If the technique does not work, they can adopt the strategy of playing dead or even eliminating intestinal contents and an odorous secretion.

  • They do not release scent jets to ward off predators.

  • They can have litters of 10 to 15 pups.

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skunk characteristics

Skunk is a popular name used for different species of the Didelphidae family. Are marsupial mammals, that is, as kangaroos and koalas, their young finish their development inside pouches known as baby carriers. The word possum is derived from the Tupi-Guarani, guaamba, and means “empty bag”, referring to the baby carrier.

Opossums are animals that can be between 40 cm and 50 cm, depending on the species studied, the place where they live and their sex. They have short limbs, a thick neck, an elongated and pointed snout, large canines and a long tail, which has hair only in the proximal region.

THE tail of these animals is prehensile and is used to grab branches, for example, making it easier for you to climb trees. In addition to the tail, the climbing of these animals is helped by the sharp nails on the front legs and the opposable toe on the hind legs.

Opossums are arboreal or terrestrial animals and have nocturnal habits. During the day, they usually sleep inside holes found, for example, in tree trunks. the possums are solitary and nomadic animals and are very adapted to living in environments modified by man.

Read more: Panda bear — a mammal found in China that stands out for its characteristic fur

Brazilian possums

White-eared possum in tree
The figure shows a white-eared opossum, a species that occurs in Brazil.

In Brazil, there are different species of possums, however, in this article, we will focus on only two types:

  • white-eared possum (Didelphis albiventris): occurs in several regions of the country, being observed mainly in the thick, Caatinga and wetland. It has gray coloring, light ears, a black stripe on its face and a black stripe for each eye.

  • black-eared possum (Didelphis aurita): characterized by having black ears devoid of hair. Its coloration in the dorsal region is black or gray, while the fur on the ventral region is light. It has a dark stripe on the forehead and one over each eye.

It is worth noting that some authors consider that Didelphis aurita and Didelphis marsupialis would actually be the same species. However, molecular and morphometric analyzes allowed us to affirm that they are different species.

possums feeding

possums are omnivorous animals, i.e, feedif both plant and animal foods. can eat invertebrates, such as insects and arachnids, and also small vertebrates, such as snakes and birds. In addition, they can feed on eggs, fruits and, in some situations, garbage.

skunk defense

Opossums have different techniques to defend themselves from predators, one of them being emission of a characteristic sound accompanied by the opening of the mouth in order to show your teeth. Despite their apparently aggressive behavior, they generally do not attack.

In addition to this technique, the skunk can eliminate intestinal contents and release an odorous secretion anal glands or playing dead, a behavior known as thanatosis. in the movie the ice age 2, thanatosis is portrayed by the possums Crash and Eddie, who play dead when threatened.

Many people think that skunks fend off their predators by squirting a foul-smelling liquid jet. However, this tactic is observed in the so-called skunk, a mammal that has black fur and large white stripes on its back. It belongs to the Mephitidae family and is therefore not a possum.

It is important to make it clear that skunks also eliminate odors used in territory marking, to attract mates and as a defense mechanism, however, the discomfort caused by the release of this smell is not the same caused by the skunk.

Reproduction of possums

Opossums are marsupial mammals and therefore have a different gestation than humans. In these animals, the new individual does not just develop inside the uterus. Initially, the puppy develops in this organ, but the process will be completeadore inside the baby carrier, a kind of pouch in the female's belly.

The baby skunk, after about 13 days in the uterus, goes to the baby carrier. There he will suckle and complete his development. The possum will leave the baby carrier to live independently after about 90 days, when it is formed. Before that time, however, he can take short walks out of his bag. In general, skunks have to 10 to 15 puppies per litter, and mating is possible twice a year.

Read more: Whales — mammals that reproduce by internal fertilization

Opossums and Humans

Opossums are animals very adapted to live in anthropic environments, that is, that have undergone modifications by humans. However, the interaction between humans and skunks it's not always healthy, since these can cause a series of damages to those, such as the destruction of electrical energy installations and house linings.


By Vanessa Sardinha dos Santos
Biology teacher

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