What Do Opossums Eat?

What Do Opossums Eat?
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What Do Opossums Eat? Opossums are marsupials, endemic to the Americas. These mammals are the size of a small dog. Opossums are omnivorous meaning they eat both vegetation and meat.

In the wild, their diet constitutes of nuts, fruits, nectar, bees, barks, grass, chicken, snakes, worms, insects, mice, and wild birds.

Opossums found in the urban areas have been noted to eat garbage and dead animals.

What Do Opossums Eat?

Type of Opossum Diet
Common Opossum (Didelphis marsupialis) Invertebrates, vertebrates, fruits, nectar, and carrion.
Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana) Plants, small invertebrates such as bees, vertebrates, and carrion.
Gray four-eyed opossum (Philander opossum) Reptiles, birds as well as their eggs, small mammals, snails, earthworms, insects, freshwater crustaceans, fruits, and carrion.
Big-eared Opossum (Didelphis aurita) Earthworms, mollusks, crustaceans, lizards, small mammals, barks, fruits, nuts, seeds, and nectar.

Suggested Reading: Speaking of garbage and carrion, do you know what animal eats them too? Crows.

Opossums Diet by Types

Biologists have described over 60 opossum species. These organisms are classified under the family Didelphidae. A representation of the existing opossum species will be analyzed further in this section.

What Do Common Opossums Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Didelphimorphia Didelphidae Didelphis Didelphis marsupialis

What do common opossums eat?

The common opossum has a broad diet, which includes invertebrates, vertebrates, fruits, and nectar. This mammal also feeds on carrion.

  • This opossum is found in Central and South America.
  • The common opossum is notable for its thick fur and long whiskers.
  • The common opossum can be found in tropical habitats, especially mountains, forests, and rainforests.

Suggested Reading: When discussing opossums, you should definitely check out Possums too! Explore What Do Possums Eat? and how they are different from opossums!

What Do Virginia Opossums Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Didelphimorphia Didelphidae Didelphis Didelphis virginiana

What do Virginia Opossums eat?

The Virginia opossum’s diet constitutes of plants, small invertebrates, vertebrates, and carrion.

  • The Virginia Opossum is notable for its short legs and a thick coat of fur lining its body.
  • This marsupial can be found in an array of habitats that include woodlands, deciduous forests, and farmlands.
  • It can also be found in wet regions like marshes and swamps.

What Do Philander Opossums Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Didelphimorphia Didelphidae Philander Philander opossum
What do Philander Opossums eat?
Source: Wikimedia

The diet of Philander opossum constitutes of reptiles, birds as well as their eggs, small mammals, snails, earthworms, insects, freshwater crustaceans, fruits, and carrion.

  • This organism is also referred to as the Gray four-eyed opossum.
  • The name is deduced from the fact that the bodies these small mammals are covered by a gray coat.
  • The Philander opossum has a wide distribution in Central and South American countries.
  • This opossum inhabits rainforests, scrub forests, swampy areas, and agricultural lands.

What Do Big-eared Opossums Eat?

Kingdom Order Family Genus Species
Animalia Didelphimorphia Didelphidae Didelphis Didelphis aurita

The big-eared opossum feeds on a vast diet consisting of small animals (earthworms, mollusks, crustaceans, and lizards), small mammals and plant matter (barks, fruits, nuts, seeds, and nectar).

What do big-eared opossums eat?
Source: Wikimedia
  • This opossum pretty much resembles the common opossum and past classification studies considered as a sub-species of the common opossum.
  • It is also known as the Brazilian common opossum.
  • The big-eared opossum is notable for its facial marks and big naked black ears.
  • This opossum is endemic to South America, especially in Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay.
  • The big-eared opossum inhabits rainforests and secondary forests in the Atlantic. They can also be found in shrubland and highlands,.

How Do Opossums Hunt?

Opossums use their evolved strong sense of smell to hunt.

How do Opossums hunt?

  • Their long snouts come in handy to sniff out and capture prey like insects, eggs, and spiders.
  • Other species are adapted to survive in their ecosystems. For instance, the amphibious opossum that is endemic to South America has a unique adaptation to help it find food.
  • These creatures have webbed feet, which help them wade on water bodies like streams, lakes, and rivers, sniff and capture their prey.

When Do Opossums Eat?

Opossums are considered to be nocturnal foragers.

  • These small mammals are active during nightfall when they are busy looking for their food.
  • During winter, they have been noted to outstretch their activity to the daylight periods.

How Often Do Opossums Eat?

How often opossums eat depends on an array of factors.

  • For instance, during harsh weather like winter, opossums slow down.
  • The implication from this is that they will tend to eat less often but will forage for food for survival.
  • Overall, these organisms tend to consume vertebrates frequently.

What Eats Opossums?

What eats Opossums? Wolf

  • Opossums are a delicious meal to a large number of organisms that include domestic cats, some eagles, some owl species (barn, great-horned, and striped), domesticated cats and dogs, margays, rattlesnakes, some hawks, jaguarundis, and wolves.
  • Humans also hunt opossums for its fur.
  • Younger opossums are more susceptible to the above predators compared to the adults.

Where Do Opossums Fit in the Animal Food Chain?

Opossums are essential to the animal food chain.

  • They are a vital source of protein to organisms that fed on them, and this includes organisms like domestic cats and dogs, rattlesnakes, some birds (owls, eagles, and hawks), wolves, and even humans.
  • Opossums prey on a vast range of small organisms including spiders, insects, mice, rats, and snails, thus keeping the populations of these organisms under check.

These organisms also feed on dead animals, thus cleaning up the ecosystem. In general, the presence of opossums in the animal food chain confirms the existence of a healthy ecosystem.

Cite this article as: "What Do Opossums Eat?," in Bio Explorer by Jack Kirsten, May 31, 2019, https://www.bioexplorer.net/what-do-opossums-eat.html/.

Key References

  • “Facts About the Common Opossum | Live Science”. Accessed August 31, 2019. Link.
  • “Comparative Mammalian Brain Collections: Four-eyed opossum (Philander opossum)”. Accessed August 31, 2019. Link.
  • “IUCN Red List of Threatened Species”. Accessed August 31, 2019. Link.
  • “DEEP: Opossum”. Accessed August 31, 2019. Link.
  • “Adaptation of an Opossum | Sciencing”. Accessed August 31, 2019. Link.
  • “Common Name”. Accessed August 31, 2019. Link.
  • “Winter versus raccoons, skunks and opossums – MSU Extension”. Accessed August 31, 2019. Link.
  • “Didelphis marsupialis (common opossum)”. Accessed August 31, 2019. Link.

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