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Everything you ever wanted to know about the opossum

An opossum with nine babies on her back.
Specialjake
/
Flickr
This image was taken during the day (the Virginia opossum is mostly nocturnal). The mother is carrying nine young on her back.

The opossum is the only marsupial in North America, and they’ve been snuffling around since before the dinosaurs died. It faints at the slightest threat, yet can be struck by a venomous snake and, unfazed, turn right around and eat it.

Also, they have two vaginas, and an extra pseudo-vagina. What more do you need? The opossum’s superpower is its reproductive system, and the thing that’s really going to make you say “holy scat!” is what’s going on in that pouch.

So…what’s it going to take to get some respect for the opossum?

Holy Scat! is an Outside/In series that allows us to explore all the things about the natural world that make us totally geek out. And this one's got a quiz on Presidential Pet Possums with our friends at Civics 101 podcast!

Featuring: Jessica Anderson, Joseph Bruchac, Danielle Draback, and Frannie Greenberg

A woman holds an opossum.
Jessica Hunt
/
NHPR
Frannie Greenberg holds Petunia, an ambassador opossum, at the Millstone Wildlife Center in Windham, N.H.

LINKS

The Opossum: Its Amazing Story - a thorough 80-page PDF by William J. Krause and Winifred A. Krause.

Politics and Possum Feasts: Presidents Who Ate Opossums | Folklife Today - with recipes!

A Possum Crisp and Brown: The Opossum and American Foodways | Folklife Today

Australia's marsupials 'have American roots' 

Are Virginia opossums really ecological traps for ticks? Groundtruthing laboratory observations

Outside/In is a podcast! Subscribe on the platform of your choice.

Outside/In is NHPR's podcast about the natural world and how we use it. Click here for podcast episodes and more.
Jessica previously worked as a producer for NHPR's The Exchange, wedging in as many discussions as possible about the environment, wildlife, and the outdoors. You can hear her occasionally as a substitute host on NHPR's Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

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