| The Common Opossum is not the one common to the United States (Didelphis virginiana), but it is a close relative. It is found in a variety of habitats, from garbage dumps to evergreen forests. Like its cousin in the U.S., it is primarily nocturnal, and may wander a mile or more each night as it forages. Common Opossums eat almost anything. Biologists studying bats, and catching live bats in mist nets, may find an opossum has taken a bat from the net before the biologist can free it.
When they are threatened, Virginia Opossums sometimes "play possum," toppling over as though dead. Common Opossums are not known to do this. They sometimes climb to escape danger, but can also respond aggressively. They hiss fiercely, rock from side to side by standing first one front foot, then the other, and sometimes even spray urine or feces.
Common Opossums often nest in tree holes or tangled vines, but also use hollow logs, rock crevices, or other places of shelter on the ground. Females have huge litters of 20 or more, but have only nine nipples, so many die at birth, and not all of the nine who are able to find a nipple live to maturity. The average lifespan of those who do is probably two years or less.
Head and Body: 263-430 mm; Tail 295-450 mm
Linnaeus, C., 1758. Systema Naturae per regna tria naturae, secundum classis, ordines, genera, species cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis, Tenth ed. Vol. 1. Laurentii Salvii, Stockholm, 824 pp. 1:54.
Mammal Species of the World (opens in a new window).
Didelphis marsupialis (Common Opossum), Peru
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