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Opossums: Opossums are marsupials which give birth to very small young that crawl to a teat (often located within a pouch) where they complete development. Most are good climbers, with a long grasping tail, and an opposable hind toe which acts like a thumb. They have more teeth than other mammals and are omnivorous, eating a variety of fruits, insects and small vertebrates. Most are nocturnal.
Grey Four-eyed Opossum
Philander opossum Grey Four-eyed Opossum image
Size: body=30 cm; tail=30 cm; weight=750 g
Description: Medium-sized, slender; greyish above, cream-yellow below, with a conspicuous white spot over each eye. Prehensile tail blackish with a contrasting white tip.
Activity: Nocturnal, terrestrial and arboreal.
Habits: Solitary. This agile opossum is commonly seen foraging along stream banks. When startled, it often climbs low branches in trees or brush, where it sits and stares at the observer. Often raids garbage pits in camps.
Habitat: Forest, secondary brush, and clearings, especially near the edges of small creeks and streams.
Signs: Tracks with five toes on each foot; the widely splayed, opposable big toe on the hind foot is clearly evident.
Status: Common.
Distribution in Iwokrama
Common Opossum
Didelphis marsupialis Common Opossum image
Creole name: Stink opossum
Size: body=35 cm; tail=35 cm; weight=1.5 kg
Description: Largest opossum: long, coarse, black guard hairs overlay soft yellow or cream underfur, lending an overall mottled, dirty appearance. Ears large, black, and naked. The long tail mostly naked with basal one-third to one-half black, and the tip white. Face and cheeks pale cream or yellowish orange with a blackish line between ears extending to the eyes. Whiskers black. Eyeshine bright reddish.
Activity: Nocturnal, terrestrial, semi-arboreal.
Habits: Solitary, omnivorous. It may be seen climbing trees or roaming along on the forest floor and in clearings. This large opossum forages widely, usually on the ground, for a variety of small animals, fruits, carrion, or nearly anything even remotely edible. Usually nests in hollow trees or tangles of vines, but may also den in burrows on or below ground. Commonly raids garbage dumps and will pick bats out of mist nets.
Habitat: Primary and secondary forest. Also around buildings near forest.
Signs: Large tracks (50 to 60 mm) with widely splayed, opposable big toe on hind foot clearly visible. Distinctive odour produced by anal scent glands. This opossum is often smelled before it is seen, (hence local name "stink opossum"). If grabbed by the scruff of the neck, it will twirl its tail like a helicopter while urinating and defecating, spraying its foul smelling faeces to deter predators and curious humans.
Status: Locally common in Iwokrama, although numbers fluctuate between years.
Distribution in Iwokrama
Water Opossum
Chironectes minimus Water Opossum image
Size: body=30 cm; tail=35 cm; weight=675 g
Description: A medium-sized, sleek opossum with a bold pattern of patches of silvery grey and black on the back. Tail naked and black with a short white tip. Hind feet conspicuously webbed. Front feet unwebbed, with an elongated bone in the wrist, appearing to form an extra digit. Both males and females have a pouch. If seen well, this handsome, strikingly marked opossum is unmistakable. Eyeshine bright red.
Activity: Nocturnal, terrestrial, and semi-aquatic.
Habits: Solitary. The water opossum is aptly named. It is usually seen while searching for food in or near small, rocky streams, although it also occurs in other aquatic habitats. This carnivorous species feeds on fish, crustaceans, and other invertebrates that it catches in the water. When startled, it usually jumps into water to escape. Nests in burrows in stream banks.
Habitat: Small rivers and streams and other bodies of water in forested areas. Never found far from water.
Signs: Tracks with five toes on each foot, front feet unwebbed, hind feet obviously webbed, in good impressions. Big toe not widely splayed to the side as it is in other opossums.
Status: Apparently uncommon in Iwokrama.

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