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Virginia Opossums Breeding

2-18-19 opossum 025If you see a Virginia Opossum in your travels, it could well be on the hunt for a mate at this time of year. It’s even possible you may hear one if you are close enough and the timing is right, as male opossums attract females by making clicking sounds with their mouth.

The breeding practices of this marsupial are unusual, to say the least. The male opossum has a bifurcated (two-pronged) penis (see photo inset), and the female has two vaginas. Not only is their reproductive anatomy somewhat unusual, but the behavior of their sperm is as well. During maturation, sperm pair up inside the male reproductive tract and remain paired after entering the female. Just prior to fertilization the sperm pair separate (into two spermatozoa). This phenomenon occurs only in American marsupials, and not Australian. No definitive explanation exists for this, but perhaps paired sperm increase motility in the female reproductive tract.

(NB: Having an opossum on your land is a real asset – according to biologist Richard Ostfeld, one opossum can kill and eat some 5,000 ticks in a single season. Opossums are said to destroy roughly 90 percent of all the ticks they encounter.)

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13 responses

  1. Bill on the hill

    Great post Mary… The anatomy of possums is very strange, i.e., ( bizarre )…
    I had no idea they had a taste for ticks, i.e., ( nature at its best ) once again, quite strange…

    I have heard since childhood the mountain folks of the Appalachians & the Ozarks eat possum.
    For some reason, this animal does not look very appetizing to the taste buds, lol…
    Thank you,
    Bill… :~)

    February 18, 2019 at 8:48 am

  2. Annie Hale

    Tick destroyer! Marsupials – come on down!


    February 18, 2019 at 8:53 am

  3. Alice Pratt

    I think Opossums are cute…I sent you a video, Mary, of a mamma carrying atleast 12 babies! They have interesting fingers. They must smell the ticks, because their eyesight is very poor. It’s sad how many Possums get hit by cars.

    February 18, 2019 at 8:59 am

  4. Stein

    Loved your post, Mary. It made me think of Lucy Cooke’s book called: The Unexpected Truth About Animals: Stoned Sloths, Lovelorn Hippos and Other Wild Tales.
    Love those tick-eaters!

    February 18, 2019 at 9:49 am

  5. Pat Nelson

    That must be the sweetest photo of an opossum that I’ve ever seen! You’d never guess it has the most teeth (50) of any North American land mammal.

    February 18, 2019 at 9:50 am

  6. Char Delabar


    February 18, 2019 at 10:33 am

  7. Janine Norton

    Love this!!!!

    February 18, 2019 at 12:15 pm

  8. Marilyn

    Aww, look at the cute ears!

    February 18, 2019 at 1:48 pm

  9. They are very unaggressive animals, even though they have impressive teeth. They will try to get away or else play dead—and they are so good at faking it that even dogs are convinced. They are harmless as far as I know. The one thing we can help them out with it is bit of shelter and warmth during the winter as their tales can freeze otherwise. They aren’t adapted to our cold. Under porches, in sheds or into warmish basements they will go, if allowed. I knew of one that slept in a baby doll’s carriage on an old man’s porch in Windsor. The porch was accessible because there was a cat door or slightly open back door. Possums get along with cats and like cat food too. I have a friend who feeds the possum a dish of cat food too and let it use the basement in the winter.

    February 18, 2019 at 2:26 pm

  10. Viola

    The tick/opossum phenomenon is new news to me. That fact knocks opossums up a notch in my opinion of them

    February 18, 2019 at 3:34 pm

  11. David Lake

    I have a whole new appreciation for the opossums I see in our alley from time to time. Remember these facts of opossum life and you may win a trivia contest some day. You can share this with Finn and the family at dinner tomorrow under the category “highlights” from gramps. xoxgpa

    On Mon, Feb 18, 2019 at 7:30 AM Naturally Curious with Mary Holland wrote:

    > Mary Holland posted: “If you see a Virginia Opossum in your travels, it > could well be on the hunt for a mate at this time of year. It’s even > possible you may hear one if you are close enough and the timing is right, > as male opossums attract females by making clicking sounds wi” >

    February 18, 2019 at 7:44 pm

  12. Eliot Stanley/& Julia Adams

    They taste like chicken if you catch one in your hen house, as I did once, kill it and cook it!

    February 19, 2019 at 7:26 pm

    • Not only are you destroying an outstanding tick remover, but if you knew what an opossum consumed, I don’t think you would want any part of it in your digestive system…

      February 20, 2019 at 1:35 pm

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