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Welcome to Everything You Need To Know About Possum Animals

Possums are rats-sized nocturnal animals that are typically marsupials. This particular type of marsupial is common and often loved by people due to its cute tiny size and smooth skin. 

According to the expert’s guesswork, numerous unique animal species exist on our planet. The estimation shows that the number of unique animals falls between 3 to 30 million, including possum animals, considered one of the most adorable yet unique species. 

Also, it is essential to mention that possums are often confused with opossums. And that’s because of their insane structural resemblance. Plus, their names are also similar. But the truth is both are different creatures. Possums are not opossums. 

How are they different? What possums love to eat? Are possums dangerous for humans, or can they attack other animals? In short, if you want to learn anything about Possums, this article will be your best possum guide. 

Stick to the page for five to seven minutes and discover astonishing facts about this interesting animal. 

Getting To Know The Unique Possum Species

possum

Notably, possums belong to the Diprotodontia order of the Mammalia class of animals. That’s why they closely resemble kangaroos, wombats, and koalas

Possums have infinite specialties. One of those is their quick navigation amid tall trees. Also, their non-aggressive and non-invasive nature leads to docile behavior which is why people like these solitary animals.

‘Possum’ Name Origin 

opossum

Please note that the word ‘possum‘ is derived from ‘aposoum,’ which means ‘white animal.’ Aposoum is a word native to Powhatan American Language. 

Possum animals are often referred to as the paraphyletic suborder of phalangeriformes that includes around 70 species of small to medium-sized Australian and Indonesian marsupials. 

The origin is tied to Australia as it is the biggest hub of different species of possum animals known for their native and gender-specific names. 

Precisely, a male Possum is known as Jack, and a female possum is known as Jill. At the same time, people call Joey baby possums. Also, a group of possum animals is called passel in Australia. 

Possum Animals Scientific Classification 

Beginning from the scratching line of classification, Possums belong to the Animalia kingdom, and their phylum is Chordata

To further narrow down possums’ scientific classification, we learned that they belong to the family of phalangeriformes from the Mammalia category of animals.

Moreover, their order is Diprotodontia, and the genus is Phalangeridae. And the scientific name of possums is Phalangeriformes

Types of Possum Animals 

possum facts

Possum animals are pretty popular due to their non-aggressive behavior and smooth skin. Generally, they are more commonly present in Australia. 

However, very few species of possums are present in some regions of Indonesia. Overall, we can say that Australia is home to around twenty-seven unique species of possums. 

Of all these twenty-seven species, some are well-known due to their dynamic nature, as they can be easily seen on the rooftops of private residences. These are known as Pesky Possums. 

Among other types of possum animals, the most noticeable are:

  • Common Brushtail Possum
  • Common Ringtail Possum
  • Pygmy Possums 
  • Long Tailed Pygmy Possum (Cercartetus Caudatus)
  • Little Pygmy Possum
  • Honey Possum
  • Mountain Brushtail Possum
  • Northern Brushtail Possum
  • Northern Brushtail Possum
  • Green-tail Possum
  • Scaly-tailed Possum
  • Leadbeater’s Possum
  • Striped Possum
  • Herbert River Ringtail Possum
  • Lemuroid Ringtail Possum
  • Coppery Brushtail Possum
  • Cinereus Ringtail Possum
  • Rock Ringtail Possum
  • Western Ringtail Possums 

Of all these possum species, Brushtail possums are the most popular not just in Australia, but they are the most widespread possum type. 

Why? As their name suggests, this particular possum has long and thick tails. Their other unique features are prehensile tips and a specific patch that helps them quickly get hanged on tree branches. 

Also, this particular type of possum is comparatively more adaptive to the living style of humans. 

In addition, they also can feed on plants that may be venomous to other living creatures. Last but not least, they can feed on small insects and tiny invertebrates. 

Possums Versus Opossums 

possum vs. opossum

Many people confuse possums with opossums because of insane similarities in their names. But the truth is both are different species of animals. However, they belong to the same order of animals class. 

  • Possums have comparatively less sharp teeth than opossums. 
  • Opossum teeth are prominent and visible when they open their mouth, whereas possums have tiny teeth. 
  • The difference in their teeth size is due to their eating habits. For example, Opossums have a pure omnivorous diet. But they prefer to prey on animal flesh. In contrast, possums are more likely to feed on coastal shrubs, leaves, fruits, and flower parts. Though they also eat small insects but do not bite carrion meat or giant animals’ flesh.  
  • Possums are generally native to Australia, whereas opossums are typically native to North and South America.
  • Possums and opossums are marsupials, but they belong to a totally different order of animal class.

It is imperative to note that both words are derived from the same Native American word, aposoum, which means white animals. 

Incredible Facts About Possum Animals

Having said earlier, possums are one of the unique animals currently existing on the planet. They have a variety of species types. And each one has some incredible facts and features. 

However, we have mentioned below a few incredible facts about possum animals that are common in most of their species. 

  • Possums are marsupials that exist in Oceania,  marsupials are an old family of mammals. Also, this particular family of mammals further split off from placental mammals around 10 million decades ago. 
  • The possums that are present these days are called modern possums that evolved from one particular marsupial ancestor. That particular ancestor of possums was alive around 20 to 30 million years ago.
  • Possums have gender-specific names. According to these names, male possums are jacks, female possums are jill, and baby possums are joey. 
  • Possums are more likely found near islands. However, they often love to hide in dark areas. 
  • The possum animals cause no danger to any human. Their maximum attack may include piercing the skin or leaving scratch marks. 
  • This little animal has fifty teeth in its tiny mouth. 

Lifespan of Possum Animals 

In general, the expected lifespan of possums ranges from 5 to 8 years. However, a few species of possums may live more than eight years. To elaborate it further, Brushtail Possums can easily live up to 13 years. 

Like Brushtail Possums, Ringtail Possums can live for around 10 to 12 years. 

While talking about possums’ lifespan, it is mandatory to mention their gender. It is because their lifespan may depend on their gender. For instance, female possums may often outlive their male counterparts. 

More precisely, the offspring of females may live more years than the offspring of males. And it is due to the female possum’s ability to make their nests closer to their mothers. This factor increases their survival rate. 

Digging Deeper Into The Possums’ Life Cycle 

Similar to marsupials, possums also have a typical life cycle that mainly includes three life stages. Let’s dig deeper into these life stages of possums. 

Stage 1 – Gestation

Like other marsupials, gestation is the first stage of the possum’s life cycle. It is also important to mention that there is no specific time frame mentioned for their breeding. That’s why possum breeding may occur at any time of year. However, the gestation period of female possums ranges from 16 to 24 days.

Stage 2 – Newborn Possum 

Once they are done with the gestation phase of 16 – 24 days, they give birth to little newborn possums, little Joeys.

Please note that the average length of newborn possums, especially Brushtail Possums, is around 1.5 cm. And their weight is around 2 grams. 

Also, it is customary for newborn possums to climb solitary through their mother’s fur. It jumps into the pouch, where they stay for around 4 to 5 months for further physical development. After that, they shift to a den where they live until they turn 9 to 10 months old. 

Stage 3 – Adulthood

Once they become ten months old, the reproduction system in females begins. As a common practice, a female possum gives birth for the very first time at 12 months. 

The Little Nocturnal Animal Possum Have About Fifty Teeth 

possum babys

Surprisingly, this little nocturnal animal has around fifty teeth which are also their unique feature. Typically speaking, they have a defined set of heterodont teeth. In this heterodont teeth set, they have incisors, molars, canines, and premolars.   

Please note that possum canines are comparatively sharper teeth than others present in their teeth set. However, they are not still as sharp as the opossum canines. 

Moreover, possums have more defined, big-sized, and prominent incisors than canines. In addition, their first upper incisor is the biggest among all teeth. 

It is important to mention that their canine teeth are not identical or connected to premolars and molars. Instead, the canine of possums are more defined and separated by a designated gap. This gap is called diastema. Also, note that the premolars and molars are cheek teeth. 

Lastly, possums’ teeth are one of the unique features that make them quite distinctive from other relevant animals, such as rodents, opossums, etc. 

They often use their sharp canines and incisors as their defensive weapons in threatening situations. In addition, they use their small yet pointed teeth to feed themselves and climb on the trees.

Possum Animals Behavior – The Are Not Aggresive In Nature 

Possum animals are not aggressive or wild, so they show pacific behavior. Possums are generally docile. That is why they are not harmful to humans and pets. 

Instead, this nocturnal creature is pretty docile. There are very rare chances when you can expect a bit of aggressive behavior from possums. And that’s probably not aggressive but defensive behavior. To elucidate it further, they only attack after being threatened by other animals or humans. 

Here i would like to point out that growling, bearing teeth, and passing a bad odor are the most common acts they perform as defensive behavior. However, in normal situations, possums mostly like to spend time grooming or sleeping. 

Also, possums have certain scent glands that help them communicate with each other. Other than that, they prefer to do hisses, clicks, howls, or grunts to interact with each other.

In short, possums are not dangerous animals for humans or pets. They neither behave aggressively nor show nasty. Instead, they show docile behavior, another plus point of these little nocturnal creatures. 

Habitat & Diet

Possums are more commonly native to the forests of Australia and its surrounding islands, such as the Solomons, Celebes, New Guinea, and Tasmania. 

They most commonly prey on rainforests, woodlands, and coastal shrubs. Please note that possums only need one mandatory thing for their habitation, i.e., a fairly lush network of large trees where they can hide and get their feed.

As far as their diet is concerned, possums have evolved to be omnivores. This means that they like to feed on small insects, eggs, small invertebrates, and different sorts of coastal shrubs and plants. 

It is also observed that these plants or shrubs may often become poisonous to other animals, but they do not harm possums. Interesting!

They can also feed themselves upon the leftover food of other animals and humans. This means that these particular marsupials are opportunistic regarding their diet.  

Possums At The Verge Of Extinction?

Overall, most possum species are not extinct. However, a few species of possum animals are on the verge of getting extinct. For instance, Leadbeater’s Possums are hinted at the verge of extinction. 

It’s due to the rapid destruction of their habitat, which is why they have been added to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 

Likewise to Leadbeater’s Possums, Mountain Pygmy Possums are also categorized on the Red List of Threatened Animals. The significant factors contributing to their extinction are global warming and local fire regimes for clearing land for agriculture, timber, or livestock. 

Summing up, around one-quarter of the twenty-seven species of possums are listed on the list of endangered animals. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

The above mentioned details about possums make this article no less than a dense possum guide. Still, if you are left with any ambiguity regarding possums, please read this Possum FAQ section.  

Are possum animals rodents?

Possum and rodents are not one creature. They are pretty different as both animal types belong to different animal orders. Possums are marsupials that specifically live in Oceania, including Australia, New Guinea, New Zealand, and other islands. 

Please note that the significant dissimilarity among both animals is the difference in animals’ class order. Possums belong to the Diprotodontia order of animals. And this is the most significant order of marsupials. Among these marsupials, possum, kangaroos, koalas, wombats, and wallabies are more common. Contrary to that, rodents belong to the Rodentia animal order. 

Another significant dissimilarity between possums and rodents is their reproduction process. Possums give birth to underdeveloped animals they carry in their pouches. However, contradictory to possums, rodents reproduce fully developed or formed babies. 

Another significant difference is the growth of their teeth. Even though possums have 50 teeth, they do not continue to grow after a specific limit. In comparison, rodents keep their teeth continuously growing. 

Which one is the smallest possum? 

The Tasmanian Pygmy Possum is the smallest of all species of possum animals. Precisely speaking, its size is not more than the size of a mouse. And its weight is less than the weight of a pencil. 

Are possum animals dangerous? 

Possum animals may look threatening, but in actuality, they display non-aggressive behavior. Typically, they look like big-sized rats who instantly open their mouths to be threatened. Also, their open mouth filled with 50 sharp teeth may terrify others, but the truth is they are pretty docile. 

Their obedient nature is quite contradictory to their teeth-bearing display. Even if you poke them with a stick or sharp-tipped object, they neither behave aggressively nor attack the person. Despite having 50 sharp teeth, they do not threaten any person or pets. 

Which one is the giant possum in the world?

The giant possum in the world is the Sulawesi Bear Cuscus. Generally, a Cuscus has a height of 24 inches, and its weight can exceed 22 pounds. Also, it has a long soft thick tail that is almost long, equal to its body. 

The Final Take

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Summing up, possums are small-sized fluffy animals mainly native to Australia. Overall, they have twenty-seven unique species. 

The average lifespan of Possums ranges from 5 to 8 years, and their lifestyle is solitary. Also, they are well-admired due to their navigation skills and furry skin. 

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