Opossum is the common name for about 8 genera and 65 species of omnivorous MAMMALS
comprising the family Didelphidae, one of 2 families of MARSUPIALS
found outside of Australia. The Virginia or North American opossum (Didelphis virginiana
) is the only marsupial native to Canada. The opossum, poorly adapted to severe cold, reaches the northern limit of its range in Canada and is found in extreme southern Ontario and the lower Fraser Valley, BC.
An easily recognized, cat-sized animal, it has a long, pointed nose, naked ears, coarse black to white fur; scaly, prehensile (grasping) tail; and a hind foot with a clawless, opposable first toe. This species probably evolved from the very similar tropical species D. marsupialis
during the Pleistocene (1.65 million to 10 000 years ago).
Reproduction and Development
Young are born in an underdeveloped state after a gestation of less than 13 days; development is completed in a pouch on the mother's belly. In Canada, one litter (2 litters in the rest of its range) of up to 13 young each may be produced annually.
The opossum is Canada's only marsupial (Corel Professional Photos).
The opossum, poorly adapted to severe cold, reaches the northern limit of its range in extreme southern Ontario and the lower Fraser Valley, BC (artwork by Claire Tremblay).
Virginia opossum (Didelphis virgianiana
) (artwork by Jan Sovak).
C.G. VAN ZYLL DE JONG
Links to Other Sites
Canadian Biodiversity Website
A great information source for all budding biologists. Learn about biodiversity theory, natural history, and conservation issues. From McGill’s Redpath Museum.