Marsupials, particularly opossums, are fascinating mammals that possess a variety of unique characteristics. Among these captivating creatures, baby opossums are especially intriguing, exhibiting remarkable innate abilities despite their minuscule stature.

Embarking on a journey to explore the world of these tiny marsupials, we’ll uncover five intriguing facts about baby opossums, paired with delightful images of these endearing animals. Prepare to be charmed by these diminutive yet extraordinary creatures!

1: Baby Opossum is Called Joeys!

Similar to other marsupials like kangaroos and koalas, baby opossums are called joeys. This term is inspired by an Aboriginal word meaning ‘little one.’ Adult male opossums are known as jacks, while adult females are jills. When you have a group of baby opossums, it’s referred to as a passel.

During their early stages, joeys are blind, deaf, and under-developed. They rely on their mother’s pouch, where they latch onto one of her teats to continue their development, living alongside any passel siblings they might have.

2: Opossum Joeys are ‘Night Owls’

Opossum joeys, being primarily nocturnal, have adapted to be active during the evening hours to increase their chances of survival. As they sit low on the food chain, evading predators is essential for their survival.

Though their eyesight is quite limited, these baby opossums utilize their heightened hearing and excellent sense of smell to navigate their surroundings and avoid danger. Moreover, they are skillful climbers, which also helps them stay safe from threats.

Opossum joeys quickly learn how to survive in their natural environment, mainly through the guidance of their mothers, proving their adaptability and determination to thrive despite the odds.

3: Opossum Babies Can Play Dead

Opossums, being typically prey rather than predators, have developed an interesting defense mechanism: playing dead. This strategy helps them avoid confrontation with predators, increasing their chances of survival.

When an opossum plays dead, it appears to fall over, stiffen, and remain still. Surprisingly, this is not a conscious action; instead, the opossum faints or passes out due to extreme stress, losing control over its body in the process.

This involuntary response offers some advantages, especially for the young ones in the litter. Since joeys can’t consciously decide to play dead, their natural reaction helps safeguard them from danger. In essence, their bodies have a built-in security system that activates when faced with threats.

Some features of the opossum playing dead include:

  • Drawing back their lips
  • Baring their teeth
  • Salivating excessively
  • Closing or half-closing their eyes

The ability to play dead is not only a fascinating aspect of opossums’ behavior but also a testament to their resilience and adaptability in the face of predators.

4: Baby Opossums Hitch a Lift with Mom

During their initial three months, baby opossums stay safe and feed while snuggled inside their mother’s pouch. As they grow more curious and adventurous, they start exploring their surroundings but still rely on their mother for transportation. With remarkable devotion, a mother opossum carries up to 15 babies on her neck, back, and body using her powerful tails.

5: Opossum Joeys are Immune to Venom

Opossums have a fascinating trait: they are unharmed by venom. They produce a unique protein similar to antivenom, which neutralizes venom in their bloodstream. This protein has been instrumental in developing antivenom since the 1940s.

Being immune to venom is crucial for opossums as it helps them fend off predators, particularly snakes. When bitten, an opossum may experience minor injuries from the bite itself, but the venom has no harmful effect. Remarkably, this immunity also extends to opossum joeys, protecting them from venomous threats like scorpions and bees. This opportunistic adaptation enables opossums to survive and thrive in their natural environment.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

  • Newborn opossum weight: Baby opossums are born incredibly tiny, similar to the size of a bee, and weigh about 0.10 to 0.15 grams. As they grow and reach three months of age, their weight increases to around 150 grams, still less than a pound. Meanwhile, adult opossums typically weigh between 5 and 15 pounds, including their tails.

  • Baby opossum diet: Initially, baby opossums rely on nursing milk from their mother. After they get strong enough to leave the pouch, they become opportunistic feeders, consuming a variety of foods like insects, fruits, and even trash.

  • Opossum classification: Opossums, including the babies, are marsupials, a category of mammals. They are unique as the only marsupials found in North America. Unlike other mammals, marsupials lack placentas and instead carry their young in a pouch for about three months. During this time, baby opossums nurse on marsupial milk, which is distinct from the milk of other mammals.

  • Opossum habitat: Preferring moist environments, such as stream banks and marshes, opossums adapt well to a variety of habitats. They often inhabit trees and enjoy feeding on insects. To stay warm in winter, these animals dig burrows, though they do not hibernate.

Baby opossums reach maturity around six months of age and have a lifespan of approximately two years. Their breeding habits result in varied litter sizes, generally ranging from six to twelve offspring. Their diverse diet mainly consists of insects, along with fruits, plants, and other small animals.

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