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Virginia opossum

(Didelphis virginiana)


Category: Mammals



These solitary, nocturnal marsupials are found in North America north of Mexico. They are omnivores and often a familiar site in suburban and even urban areas where they rummage in the garbage for food, steal pet food left outdoors, and otherwise glean nutrition and shelter from human habits and habitations. They are famous for their curious adaptation of “playing opossum,” the act playing dead, sick, or injured in attempt to discourage attackers or other perceived threats. It should be noted that this is a result of extreme fear on the opossum’s part and they actually enter a brief, coma-like state where they are unable to move or react to stimulus – they are fully conscious however.



Data & Facts

Scientific Classification
Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Mammalia
Order - Didelphimorphia
Family - Didelphidae
Genus - Didelphis
Species - D. virginiana

Did you know?
Interesting Animal Facts

The Opossum Ain’t Playing

Many people associate playing dead with the opossum - that’s where the term “playing opossum” comes from, after all. But something you might not know is that when an opossum feigns death, it really goes all out! Not content with merely closing its eyes and laying down, the opossum begins drooling profusely as if ill or even rabid, releases a putrid, greenish fluid from its anal glands that makes it smell like a decaying corpse, and after losing consciousness may even mimic rigor mortis! This is quite the elaborate routine, but it isn’t conscious: when an opossum plays dead, it has actually gone into shock due to stress.

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