The name came from the Algonquin word “aposoum,” meaning a white dog or white beast. The informal name for this animal is “possum.”
Both Australian possums and North American possums are marsupials, nocturnal, omnivorous, and live in trees. Both play dead (playing possum) when they’re threatened.
Now for the differences. They belong to different orders: Didelphimorphia for opossum and Diprotodontia for the possum. While the opossum has coarse hair and a hairless tail (like a rat), possums have softer hair and long bushy tails. Possums come in more diverse colors, and they have a rank smell because of musk glands behind their ears.
Other facts about possums include:
- While the brushtail possum is the most common possum where I live, there are several different types of possums in Australia.
- Brushtail possums eat leaves, shoots, fruits, flowers, and insects.
- Possums are agile climbers and live in tree hollows, roof spaces, logs, and rabbit warrens. They are mostly solitary animals, moving between several dens a year.
- Because they are marsupials, the mothers have short pregnancies (17 days), and the young are born not fully developed. A newborn possum climbs into the mother’s pouch and attaches to a nipple. The baby finishes its development in three months and leaves the pouch at 4 to 5 months. The mother then leaves the baby in the den or carries it on her back until it is 7 to 9 months old.