Phylogeny of the possum

Don Gilbert gilbertd at
Thu Jul 21 00:04:40 EST 1994


I'm far from an expert on possums, but may be able to help.

The North American opossum is also known by the common name possum.
It is the only marsupial native to north america.  The scientific
name is Didelphis (marsupialis) virginiana.  Search on that name in genbank
and you will find about 20 matches.  They are commonly found from
tropical South America thru the mid latitudes of North America, as north as
New Hampshire and southern Canada, though they tend to get frostbite and not
tolerate cold winters.  I don't know how far west they go (maybe not to
california) but they range at least from the east coast to the rockies.
-- oh, a note in a book here says they were introduced by man to the
pacific coast in the 1900s.

There are plenty in Bloomington, Indiana -- I can probably go out for a
walk now and trip over a few.  These beasts are whitish grey furry
things, with a pointed pink flesh snout and a hairless, rat-like tail
they can use in tree climbing and hanging from tree limbs with.  Roughly
the size of a cat, they tend to be slow and don't run when spotted
by people or dogs, but they "play possum" by staying still and playing
dead, so that an attacker will often loose interest in this obviously ugly
dead thing.

-- Don

-- d.gilbert--biocomputing--indiana u--bloomington--gilbertd at

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