About New York opossums: Appearance, biology, life cycle, habitat, diet, behaviour

Classified as marsupials, Suffolk County opossums are mostly found in the Americas. The animal is often small in size and can grow as big as the average house cat. The male opossums are larger in size than the female ones .They also have a snout that has earned them descriptive words such as pig-like, and some have a prehensile tail. Some opossums use their tails as an extra limb for climbing trees.

Their feet lay flat on the ground in a stance commonly referred to as plantigrade. Their fur is made up of awn hair and their tails along with some bits of their feet have scutes. Like most marsupials, the female opossum has a pouch to carry their young ones in.

The opossum has a full dental set with small incisors, large canines and several molars. Their sagittal crest, the ridge of bone along the midline of their skull, is also prominent, an indication of their strong jaws.

The female Suffolk County opossum has a bifurcated vagina, a divided uterus and an external pouch. The male opossum has a bifurcated penis and their sperm is paired. The paired sperm however separates into different spermatozoa before any fertilization can take place. A male possum looking to mate will make smacking noises at their female counterparts.

The female possum’s gestation period runs for 12-14 days which is relatively short and once the young one is born, they go into the mother’s pouch to nurse. They exit the pouch after 80-130 days of weaning. As many baby opossums or joeys as they are commonly referred, as possible can be nursed in one pouch.

The average opossum has a short lifespan and can only live up to 2 years only when left in the wild while a captured opossum can live up to 4 years. Opossums are mostly omnivorous and vary in their preference for meat or vegetables. Their indiscriminate eating habits make it easy for them to survive in a lot of different environments and even thrive.

They often prefer wooded areas in which they can hide in the trees and bushes on the ground as well. They can come into a group and dig a burrow underground to live in. However they prefer already dug burrows.

The opossum is famous for its defence mechanism that involves playing dead when they sense danger or intrusion. When playing dead, they exhibit the characteristics of a dead or dying animal. The most interesting bit about this trait is that it is involuntary, just like breathing in human beings.

An opossum playing dead will bear its teeth and foam in the mouth. Their eyes will remain partially or fully closed and they will produce a foul smelly fluid from their anal glands. They will also remain very stiff for a period lasting a few minutes to a few hours. Twitching of their ears will indicate that they are rousing from their ‘dead’ state. Little joeys don’t always react to threat by playing dead, instead, they sneeze and their mother makes a clicking sound which they follow to safety. The joeys can also hiss wildly until the threat passes. Male opossums will also growl deeply when threatened and increase the pitch of their growl as the threat persists.

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