American marsupials

American marsupials

Order : Didelphimorphia

  OpossumsMore than 60 different kinds of oppossums live in South America and 1 in North America, the Virginia opossum didelphis virginiana. The name opossum is sometimes shortened to possum, which actually is the name for an Australian group of marsupials. These are distinct from opossums which are only found in North and South America. The Virginia opossum is probably best know for its last resort to escaping predators, "playing possum". As a last resort it can fake death to lose interest of its predator. The Virginia opossum is the only marsupial living in the wild in the US. They come in different shapes and sizes. They are marsupials meaning that they have a pouch in which they can carry their young. They all belong to the family didelphidae.

Picture from BBC Some are living in trees and one, the water opossum or yapok, Chironectes minimus, is aquatic and his hind feet are webbed. The yapok is a long-legged opossum with a relatively broad snout, and a long, almost hairless, scaly tail except at its base. The water opossum is one of very few species able to forage in the trees and underwater. They can be found near streams or rivers in forested areas. Through evolution this marsupial has reversed the opening of its pouch so that the water doesn't force its way in when it is swimming under water. It is the only marsupial known to hunt in the water.

Picture from Animal Diversity Web They can weigh as little as 40 grams, mouse opossum, to up to 2 kilograms, didelphis virginiana. Some are very rare, but it is unclear whether that has to do with opossums being nocturnal or that they are becoming extinct.

They have four claw-bearing toes and an opposable "big thumb", which they can move just like a thumb of humans, grabbing something and then move it back to walk or run. They use their prehensile tail for grasping.

Animals in the order Didelphimorphia

Bare-tailed woolly opossum
Water opossum or yapok
Gray slender mouse opossum
White-eared opossum
Southern opossum
Virginia opossum
Murine mouse opossum
Gray short-tailed opossum



Read general information about the Virginia opossum, their uses, their habitat and their diet, includes pictures and links.

The 'Possum pages
Take the opossum quiz, read facts about the Virginia opossum and personal experience with the opossum.

Window on the woodlands
Read fun facts on "the living fossil", the Virginia opossum. Includes several links to opossum pages.


Myers, P. 2001. "Didelphidae" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed March 05, 2005 at

Opossums Are From South America


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