Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Possums Vs. Opossums

Earlier today I mentioned on Twitter that I had been trying to explain the difference between a possum and an opossum to my husband. A handful of replies I got made me realize that this would be an excellent Random Animal Fact for today, but it's a tad too long to fit into a tweet. Despite that, the easiest way to explain this is still on a very simplistic level:

This is a type of opossum, familiar to just about anyone who lives in North America:

From Wikipedia

This is a type of possum, familiar to those who live in Australia/ New Zealand:

From The Internet

Now, to be fair, you can consider both "possum" and "opossum" to be family terms, meaning there are many species of each. I suppose the easiest way to divide them is into Eastern and Western hemisphere varieties, the possum being found in the Eastern hemisphere and the opossum being found in the Western.

Both are marsupials, meaning they give live birth to premature young who crawl into Mom's pouch and finish their development there. One just happens to be a lot... scarier looking than the other.

I've worked with both. Opossums hiss, which can be off-putting, and they have teeth like some vicious predator, which can be off-putting. They have naked tails and black eyes and one of the ones I worked with had a skin condition that meant it was balding which was VERY off-putting. But they were still cool little creatures. (The one with the possum-pattern-baldness had been hit by a car and was un-releasable. She walked mostly in circles, but was very affectionate).

Possums are some of the cutest creatures on this entire planet. My beloved sugar gliders are a variety of possum and there's also a creature called a pygmy possum that I INSTANTLY knew I would love as soon as I heard the name. I mean LOOK! Just-- LOOK!!!


But to be fair, possums also have teeth like some kind of vicious predator (some people affectionately refer to sugar gliders as "flying staple guns"), they have the same black eyes, and sugar gliders make this noise called crabbing which basically sounds like someone murdering a duck. Loudly. So it's not all fun and games, even if their little faces do melt my heart.

There you have it. Now go forth and share.


  1. I love this!! I never knew! But I must be weird because I think the Opossum picture is cuter. Also, I like that the possum is putting his hands up in surrender to the cameraman, like he's CAUGHT IN THE ACT.

  2. I have decided I must have a pygmy possum. It is now on my list for when I take over the world.


  3. Stephanie-- ME TOO. OMG I want one so bad! I let out this huge loud squeal when I saw the pictures. You should do an image search for little pygmy possum. It just gets cuter!

  4. Possums are marsupials? Huh, learned something new today.


  5. Thanks for the lesson! I think sugar gliders are adorable, too. :)

  6. thank you I am working on a project on the possum and this gave me great insight!

  7. A friend linked me here because I, too, have sugar gliders who I adore beyond all reason. I really love opossums, too, though, and have several plush/carved ones hanging (mostly literally) around my house. ITA that pygmy possums are too cute to be real. If you can't get hold of the real thing, the Australian artist Ruth Waterhouse makes amazing wildlife jewelry, sugar gliders included, and I think you'll fall in love with Pygmy Possum in Blossom on this page: http://ruthwaterhouse.com/studio/?cat=10