The opossum : its amazing story
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The opossum (Didelphis virginiana Kerr) was the first marsupial discovered by Western Europeans and is the only marsupial found in the United States. In spite of its fascination to scientists, the opossum is one of the most misunderstood mammals native to this country. This is due in part to its physical appearance. The opossum has a narrow, tapered snout and jaws that contain fifty teeth. When encountered the startled opossum will open its large mouth to expose these formidable teeth and growl to warn potential threats or predators. Because of this behavior, which is in fact a bluff, the opossum is considered by many to be a dangerous creature that is a threat to man and domestic animals. In addition, a long, naked, rat-like tail characterizes the opossum. Thus, the opossum has acquired the reputation of being a repulsive, aggressive, rat-like creature that should be avoided. Generally, the only contact most individuals have with an opossum is a fleeting glimpse in a backyard or along a roadway during the late evening hours or perhaps as an encounter at night if pets are being fed outside. However, the opossums witnessed by most are generally road kill victims. The opossum and most other marsupials, with the exception of Australian kangaroos and koalas, are rarely exhibited in zoos or animal parks. As a result, only a few have been privileged to closely examine this fascinating animal. The Krauses have studied this marsupial since 1967 and the observations have resulted in the publication of over one hundred articles including an extensive bibliography on this species. They have written this short, contemporary, well-illustrated book on the opossum specifically for those individuals with a limited scientific background but who are interested in learning more about this much-maligned species. The book is designed to be a useful text so that specific information with regard to the opossum can be located quickly and with ease.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- Classification and its meaning -- General appearance -- Evolutionary history -- Natural history -- Reproductive biology of the male -- Reproductive biology of the female -- Formation of the embryo -- Birth -- Postnatal life -- Relationship to man -- References.