Possum


Possum

Taxobox
name = Possums



image_width = 240px
image_caption = Common Brushtail Possum
("Trichosurus vulpecula")
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Mammalia
infraclassis = Marsupialia
ordo = Diprotodontia
subordo = Phalangeriformes
subordo_authority = Szalay in Archer, 1982
subdivision_ranks = Superfamilies and Families
subdivision =
Phalangeroidea
*Burramyidae
*Phalangeridae
Petauroidea
*Pseudocheiridae
*Petauridae
*Tarsipedidae
*Acrobatidae

A possum is any of about 64 small to medium-sized arboreal marsupial species native to Australia, New Guinea, and Sulawesi (and introduced to New Zealand). The name derives from their resemblance to the opossums of the Americas. (The name is from Algonquian "wapathemwa", not Greek or Latin, so the plural is "possums", not "possa".) "Possum" is also used in North America as a short form of "Opossum". The possum's rank odour is due to its large musk glands located behind each ear.

Possums are small marsupials with brown or grey fur, ranging in size and weight from the length of a finger or 170 grams (6 ounces) (pygmy possums and wrist-winged gliders), to the length of 120 centimetres (four feet) or 14.5 kilograms (32 pounds) (brushtails and ringtails). In general, though, the larger possums are about the same size as a well-fed domestic cat. All possums are nocturnal and omnivorous, hiding in a nest in a hollow tree during the day and coming out during the night to forage for food. They fill much the same role in the Australian ecosystem that squirrels fill in the northern hemisphere and are broadly similar in appearance.

The two most common species of possums, the Common Brushtail and Common Ringtail, are also among the largest.

Interaction with humans

The animal has been a part of Australian culture and folklore since the original indigenous inhabitants of the country. Aboriginal Australians once used possum hides whilst playing the traditional game of Marn Grook. Possum-skin cloaks were important clothing for Aborigines from the south-east, as well as being important clan heirlooms.

Possums are commonly found in suburban areas, where they are often considered pests owing to their habit of eating fruit, vegetables, flowers and tender young shoots from gardens, and nesting in roofs. The loud hissing, crackling territorial call of the male Common Brushtail may also be a problem for suburban residents. Natural deterrents which play upon the possum's acute sense of smell are often employed to discourage them. These include cloves of garlic, camphor or naphthalene. As a native species in Australia, possums are protected by Australian regulations, even when they reside in urban neighbourhoods, and cannot be baited. If captured, regulations stipulate that they must be released within a small radius of the capture site as they are territorial creatures. Preventative measures such as blocking off their access to the roof spaces or building a possum nesting box for an alternative home are instead recommended.

Although the Common Brushtail and (to a lesser extent) ringtail possums have adapted well to the urban environment, many of the lesser-known species are reduced in number, threatened, or endangered.

Introduction into New Zealand

The Common Brushtail Possum was introduced to New Zealand by European settlers in an attempt to establish a fur industry.

They soon escaped into the wild where they have thrived as an invasive species with great numbers: around 60 million individuals estimated. There are no native predators of the possum in New Zealand. There have been numerous attempts to eradicate them because of the damage they do to native trees and wildlife, as well as acting as a carrier of bovine tuberculosis. For New Zealand, the introduction of possums has resulted in as much of an ecological disaster as the introduction of rabbits has been in Australia.Fact|date=June 2008

Classification

About two-thirds of Australian marsupials belong to the order Diprotodontia, which is split into three suborders: the Vombatiformes (wombats and the Koala, 4 species in total); the large and diverse Phalangeriformes (the possums and gliders) and Macropodiformes (kangaroos, potoroos, wallabies and the Musky Rat-kangaroo).

* Suborder PHALANGERIFORMES: possums, gliders and allies
** Superfamily Phalangeroidea
*** Family Burramyidae: pygmy possums
**** Genus "Burramys"
***** Mountain Pygmy Possum, "Burramys parvus"
**** Genus "Cercartetus"
***** Long-tailed Pygmy Possum, "Cercartetus caudatus"
***** Southwestern Pygmy Possum, "Cercartetus concinnus"
***** Tasmanian Pygmy Possum, "Cercartetus lepidus"
***** Eastern Pygmy Possum, "Cercartetus nanus"
*** Family Phalangeridae: brushtail possums and cuscuses
**** Subfamily Ailuropinae
***** Genus "Ailurops"
****** Talaud Bear Cuscus, "Ailurops melanotis"
****** Sulawesi Bear Cuscus, "Ailurops ursinus"
**** Subfamily Phalangerinae
***** Tribe Phalangerini
****** Genus "Phalanger"
******* Gebe Cuscus, "Phalanger alexandrae"
******* Mountain Cuscus, "Phalanger carmelitae"
******* Ground Cuscus, "Phalanger gymnotis"
******* Eastern Common Cuscus, "Phalanger intercastellanus"
******* Woodlark Cuscus, "Phalanger lullulae"
******* Blue-eyed Cuscus, "Phalanger matabiru"
******* Telefomin Cuscus, "Phalanger matanim"
******* Southern Common Cuscus, "Phalanger mimicus"
******* Northern Common Cuscus, "Phalanger orientalis"
******* Ornate Cuscus, "Phalanger ornatus"
******* Rothschild's Cuscus, "Phalanger rothschildi"
******* Silky Cuscus, "Phalanger sericeus"
******* Stein's Cuscus, "Phalanger vestitus"
****** Genus "Spilocuscus"
******* Admiralty Island Cuscus, "Spilocuscus kraemeri"
******* Common Spotted Cuscus, "Spilocuscus maculatus"
******* Waigeou Cuscus, "Spilocuscus papuensis"
******* Black-spotted Cuscus, "Spilocuscus rufoniger"
******* Blue-eyed Spotted Cuscus, "Spilocuscus wilsoni"
***** Tribe Trichosurini
****** Genus "Strigocuscus"
******* Sulawesi Dwarf Cuscus, "Strigocuscus celebensis"
******* Banggai Cuscus, "Strigocuscus pelegensis"
****** Genus "Trichosurus"
******* Northern Brushtail Possum, "Trichosurus arnhemensis"
******* Short-eared Possum, "Trichosurus caninus"
******* Mountain Brushtail Possum, "Trichosurus cunninghami"
******* Coppery Brushtail Possum, "Trichosurus johnstonii"
******* Common Brushtail Possum "Trichosurus vulpecula"
****** Genus "Wyulda"
******* Scaly-tailed Possum, "Wyulda squamicaudata"
** Superfamily Petauroidea
*** Family Pseudocheiridae
**** Subfamily Hemibelideinae
***** Genus "Hemibelideus"
****** Lemur-like Ringtail Possum, "Hemibelideus lemuroides"
***** Genus "Petauroides"
****** Greater Glider, "Petauroides volans"
**** Subfamily Pseudocheirinae
***** Genus "Petropseudes"
****** Rock-haunting Ringtail Possum, "Petropseudes dahli"
***** Genus "Pseudocheirus"
****** Common Ringtail Possum, "Pseudocheirus peregrinus"
***** Genus "Pseudochirulus"
****** Lowland Ringtail Possum, "Pseudochirulus canescens"
****** Weyland Ringtail Possum, "Pseudochirulus caroli"
****** Cinereus Ringtail Possum, "Pseudochirulus cinereus"
****** Painted Ringtail Possum, "Pseudochirulus forbesi"
****** Herbert River Ringtail Possum, "Pseudochirulus herbertensis"
****** Masked Ringtail Possum, "Pseudochirulus larvatus"
****** Pygmy Ringtail Possum, "Pseudochirulus mayeri"
****** Vogelkop Ringtail Possum, "Pseudochirulus schlegeli"
**** Subfamily Pseudochiropinae
***** Genus "Pseudochirops"
****** D'Albertis' Ringtail Possum, "Pseudochirops albertisii"
****** Green Ringtail Possum, "Pseudochirops archeri"
****** Plush-coated Ringtail Possum, "Pseudochirops corinnae"
****** Reclusive Ringtail Possum, "Pseudochirops coronatus"
****** Coppery Ringtail Possum, "Pseudochirops cupreus"
*** Family Petauridae
**** Genus "Dactylopsila"
***** Great-tailed Triok, "Dactylopsila megalura"
***** Long-fingered Triok, "Dactylopsila palpator"
***** Tate's Triok, "Dactylopsila tatei"
***** Striped Possum, "Dactylopsila trivirgata"
**** Genus "Gymnobelideus"
***** Leadbeater's Possum, "Gymnobelideus leadbeateri"
**** Genus "Petaurus"
***** Northern Glider, "Petaurus abidi"
***** Yellow-bellied Glider, "Petaurus australis"
***** Biak Glider, "Petaurus biacensis"
***** Sugar Glider, "Petaurus breviceps"
***** Mahogany Glider, "Petaurus gracilis"
***** Squirrel Glider, "Petaurus norfolcensis"
*** Family Tarsipedidae
**** Genus "Tarsipes"
***** Honey Possum or Noolbenger, "Tarsipes rostratus"
*** Family Acrobatidae
**** Genus "Acrobates"
***** Feathertail Glider "Acrobates pygmaeus"
**** Genus "Distoechurus"
***** Feather-tailed Possum "Distoechurus pennatus"

References

*MSW3 Groves|pages=44-56

ee also

*Shrew opossum
*Playing possum


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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Possum — Pos sum, n. [Shortened from opossum.] (Zo[ o]l.) An opossum. [Colloq. U. S.] [1913 Webster] {To play possum}, {To act possum}, to feign ignorance, indifference or inattention, with the intent to deceive; to dissemble; in allusion to the habit of… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • possum — ► NOUN 1) a tree dwelling Australasian marsupial. 2) N. Amer. informal an opossum. ● play possum Cf. ↑play possum ORIGIN shortening of OPOSSUM(Cf. ↑opossum) …   English terms dictionary

  • possum — 1610s, shortened form of OPOSSUM (Cf. opossum). Phrase play possum is first recorded 1822 …   Etymology dictionary

  • possum — ☆ possum [päs′əm ] n. Informal OPOSSUM play possum to pretend to be asleep, dead, ill, unaware, etc.: an opossum may become motionless when endangered …   English World dictionary

  • Possum — Opossum Nom vernaculaire ou nom normalisé ambigu : Le terme « Opossum » s applique, en français, à plusieurs taxons distincts. Opossum …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Possum — Der Fuchskusu ist eine der als Possums bezeichneten Tierarten Als Possums werden eine Reihe von Beutelsäugern der Ordnung Diprotodontia aus dem australasischen Raum bezeichnet, namentlich ein Großteil oder auch alle Vertreter der Unterordnung… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • possum — /ˈpɒsəm / (say posuhm) noun 1. Also, Obsolete, opossum. any of many herbivorous, largely arboreal, Australian marsupials of the superfamily Phalangeroidea, especially of the genera Trichosurus, Pseudochirus and Petaurus, ranging in size from the… …   Australian English dictionary

  • possum — /pos euhm/, n. 1. opossum. 2. play possum, Informal. a. to feign sleep or death. b. to dissemble or pretend ignorance: The baseball broke the window, but the children played possum when asked who had thrown it. 3. Australian. any of various… …   Universalium

  • possum — stir the possum Deliberately cause controversy, especially in a public debate. The phrase was first recorded in 1900, but its origin is unknown. Some suggest it arose from a reversal of the American expression to play possum , which refers to the …   Australian idioms

  • possum — UK [ˈpɒs(ə)m] / US [ˈpɑsəm] noun [countable] Word forms possum : singular possum plural possums an opossum • play possum …   English dictionary


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