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Opossum Facts

Size Up to 20 inch (50 cm) (without tail)
Speed Up to 15.5 mph (25 km/h)
Weight Up to 13 lb (6 kg)
Lifespan 2-7 years
Food Fruit, insects, frogs
Predators Foxes, cats, birds of prey
Habitat North America
Order Didelphimorphia
Family Didelphidae
Scientific name Didelphis
Characteristics Big “rat” with a long tail

Main Characteristics

Opossums are large rat-like nocturnal animals that live in (brush)woods.

Opossum Photo: Lisa Hagan/Shutterstock

Anatomy and Appearance

The Biggest Possums

Opossums are the biggest possums and can reach the size of domestic cats.



The Virginia opossum has 52 teeth – the largest number of teeth of all North-American mammals. Humans usually have only 32 teeth.

Opossum Opossum-Baby - Photo: rthoma/Shutterstock


They Feign Death

The opossum cannot move very quickly. So what should it do if an enemy approached? It rolls up, sticks out its tongue and stays lying down with open eyes. It also emits a foul smell. The opossum can get through this deception for up to six hours.

They Walk Like Camels

Opossums do not walk like dogs, cats, or horses. These put their paws or hooves offset (apart from the "pass" in horses, a special gait). Opossums move their limbs on one side of the body simultaneously – left front and back paw, then right front and back paw.

Opossum Photo: Quadxeon/Shutterstock



Generally, opossums are loners. The animals only come together during the mating season. Before a female opossum gives birth, it thoroughly cleans its pouch for the young. With just about 12-14 days, they have the shortest gestation period of all mammals. After birth, the babies are just about 0.39-0.78 inch (1-2 cm) long and weigh between 0.004 and 0.007 oz (0.13 and 0.20 g). After 2-3 months, the young animals leave the pouch for the first time and climb onto their mother’s back.

Opossum Photo: GSPhotography/Shutterstock


Opossums are living fossils. Opossums have been roaming the earth for 70-80 million years, making them one of the oldest living "fossils".

Fun Facts

Opossums are immune to rabies. They can't be infected with rabies. They have an extremely effective immune system that can deal with many viruses and bacteria. They also have a rather low body temperature, which makes it difficult for bacteria to multiply.

The Opossum Is Related To:

  • Possums

Animals in the Same Biome:

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