Bushy-Tailed Opossum

Bushy-Tailed Opossum

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Infraclass
Family
Subfamily
Genus
SPECIES
Glironia venusta
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
1-2 yrs
WEIGHT
195-255 g
LENGTH
160-205 mm

This marsupial belongs to the group of American opossums, which are related to Australian opossums by the type of reproduction. This opossum is a very rare and little-known species. The animal reminds a dormouse by its appearance. No wonder the scientific name of the species is 'glironia', where the Latin word 'glir' means dormouse and 'venusta' - graceful or charming. The long, pointed nose of the animal has long tactile hairs. This marsupial has keen sense of hearing; the large ears of the opossum are blackish in color, oval-shaped and naked. The tail of the opossum is bushy, covered with thick fur. The coat of the animal is grey to buffy-white below while fawn or cinnamon-brown on top. The fur ranges greatly from soft and velvety to dense and woolly.

Distibution

These marsupials inhabit Amazon and Paraguay Basins in South America (Bolivia; Brazil; Colombia; Ecuador; Peru), occurring in dense, humid, tropical forests as well as semi-deciduous, dry seasonal sub-montane forests.

Bushy-Tailed Opossum habitat map

Habits and Lifestyle

Presently, the Bushy-tailed opossum is quite a rare and insufficiently explored species. The animal is thought to be nocturnal and is likely to live solitarily. The big toe of the animal is large and opposable, which enables us to conclude that this marsupial is an arboreal animal that spends most of the time in the trees. In addition, some specimens of this opossum have been captured in pitfall trips, located on the ground, which allows to presume, that from time to time, the animal uses lower parts of the forest and sometimes comes down to the ground, probably in order to catch insects.

Group name

Diet and Nutrition

Presently, the diet of this marsupial is unknown, though the species has many similarities with genus Marmosa, which allows the researchers to presume that the Bushy-tailed opossums are omnivorous and may have the same diet as Marmosa species, namely, insects, eggs, seeds as well as fruits.

Mating Habits

FEMALE NAME
jill
MALE NAME
jack
BABY NAME
joey

Currently, there is no information on the mating system of this marsupial, though species of the family Didelphidae are mainly polygynous. Rarity of their population numbers does not allow deeper study of the species. In general, however, opossum males compete for mating rights while communicating with each other through a wide variety of clicking calls. Opossums normally do not have any courtship rituals or pair bonds. Offspring of all opossum species are born altricial or poorly developed. Newborn babies climb to the pouch of their mother, staying there for weeks. Coming out of the pouch, the young are carried by their mother for another several weeks, after which they are weaned.

Population

Population threats

Currently, the opossum greatly suffers from the alteration of its forest habitat to agricultural areas, which, in turn, leads to sharp decline in the numbers of the species. Remaining forestlands are now being destroyed, logged, fragmented and turned to cattle pastures.

Population number

According to IUCN, the Bushy-tailed opossum is rare, although has a widespread distribution but no overall population estimate is available. However, the species is currently classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.

Ecological niche

This opossum is thought to have the same diet as Marmosa species, namely, Robinson’s mouse opossum, which acts as seed disperser of various plants and fruits it feeds upon.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Opossums are partially or totally resistant to the venom of pit vipers such as rattlesnakes and cottonmouths.
  • Despite the popular opinion that opossums are not the smartest animals, there are a few areas where they show outstanding intelligence. Thus, they have an amazing ability of finding food. Moreover, they are capable of remembering where the food is, better than rats, rabbits, cats and dogs, though not so well as humans. They are also exceptional in finding their way out of a maze, doing it quicker than cats and rats.
  • Due to the prehensile tail, which is sometimes considered to be a fifth appendage, the opossum is able to easily grab things and wrap its tail around tree limbs. The animal often hangs from its tail for short periods of time. However, in spite of the widespread belief, the opossum does not sleep hanging from the tail. The tail greatly aids the animal in daily life: opossums are known to carry materials such as bundles of grasses by wrapping their tail around them.
  • The eyes of the animal seem to be black. However, what we see is, actually, the largely dilated pupil, surrounded by iris, which is simply out of sight. These dilated pupils are most likely to be a result of adaptation to nocturnal lifestyle.
  • The animal has as many as 50 teeth in its mouth.
  • When in trouble, opossum will belch, growl and run. In a case if none of these methods work, the animal “plays ‘possum" or pretends dead, which is not a conscious response but an unconscious reaction, similar to fainting.

References

1. Bushy-Tailed Opossum Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bushy-tailed_opossum
2. Bushy-Tailed Opossum on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/9245/0

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