Common Brushtail Possum

Common Brushtail Possum

Silver-gray brushtail possum

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Infraclass
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Trichosurus vulpecula
Population size
Unknown
Life Span
13-15 yrs
WEIGHT
1.2-4.5 kg
LENGTH
32-58 cm

The Common brushtail possum is one of the most commonly seen possums in Sydney, where this animal occurs in urban areas, fearlessly associating with humans. The bushy tail of the animal has a prehensile tip and a naked patch on the under-side, which allows the possum easily grasp tree branches. Front feet possess rather sharp claws. Each of the hind feet has an opposable and clawless first toe, providing good grip. The second and third toes are webbed, equipped with a long and split claw, which is typically used in grooming.

Distibution

This possum is widely distributed across Australia, Tasmania and many offshore islands such as Barrow Island and Kangaroo Island. The animal is also introduced and fairly common in New Zealand. The Common brushtail possums occur in a wide variety of habitats such as rainforest, woodland, dry eucalypt forest, pine plantations, semiarid areas, urban gardens/parks and, sometimes, treeless areas.

Common Brushtail Possum habitat map

Geography

Continents
Countries
Introduced Countries

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

These marsupials are arboreal and solitary animals, marking their home ranges through scent secretions. However, due to a very high number of their populations, they often have overlapping home ranges. In spite of being solitary, Common brushtail possums have been known to display dominance hierarchies with co-dominants of the same sex typically avoiding each other. However, direct aggression among individuals is very rare. These nocturnal animals spend their daytime hours resting in hollow logs or trees, while those in urban areas may rest wherever they feel secure, even in attics of houses. Brushtail possums are highly vocal animals. They interact with conspecifics through a wide variety of calls such as clicks, grunts, hisses, alarm chatters, guttural coughs or screeching.

Diet and Nutrition

This possum is mainly herbivore, it feeds upon leaves, shoots and flowers, supplementing its diet with clovers, grasses, garden fruits and turnips.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
peaks occure in September-November and in March-May, in northern Australia - year-round
PREGNANCY DURATION
16-18 days
BABY CARRYING
1 joey
INDEPENDENT AGE
7-9 months
BABY NAME
joey

Common brushtail possums exhibit polygynandrous (promiscuous) mating system, in which both males and females have multiple mates. Mating usually depends on location. Thus, in some areas such as northern Australia, they usually breed throughout the year. In other areas, these possums mate with peak periods, occurring in spring, from September to November, and during the autumn months, from March to May. Meanwhile, in some areas of their range, they can give births in both seasons. Gestation period lasts for 16 - 18 days, yielding a single, tiny baby, which climbs into the pouch of its mother without any help. The baby remains in the pouch for about 4 - 5 months, after which it is left in the den or may ride on the back of its mother until 7 - 9 months old. Females of this species are ready to mate at 12 months old, while males are mature at 2 years old.

Population

Population threats

Presently, the Common brushtail possum suffers from loss of its natural habitat. The animal is hunted by dingoes, foxes, cats and dogs. The Common brushtail possum also competes for food and home sites with other possums and animals.

Population number

According to IUCN, the Common brushtail possum is locally abundant and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Although this species is currently classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List, its numbers are decreasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • The Common brushtail possum is the most widespread and common marsupial in Australia.
  • When in trees, this animal is able to move very fast, leaping from branch to branch with agility.
  • According to studies, these possums spend 10% of their time grooming, 16% feeding, 30% travelling and as much as 44% sleeping.
  • The scientific name of this species is ‘Trichosurus vulpecula’, meaning "furry tailed" in Greek and "little fox" in Latin.
  • The pouch of this possum opens to the front, while that of other Australian marsupials such as koala or bilby, opens to the back.
  • This animal is insusceptible to many plant toxins. Moreover, the brushtail possum feeds upon leaves of some trees, which are poisonous to many other animals.

References

1. Common Brushtail Possum Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_brushtail_possum
2. Common Brushtail Possum on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/40585/0

More Fascinating Animals to Learn About