The Virginia Opossum’s ancestors evolved in South America, but were enabled to invade North America in the Great American Interchange by the formation of the Isthmus of Panama about 3 million years ago. It is often seen near towns, rummaging through garbage cans, or lying by the side of the road, a victim of traffic. Name: The Virginia Opossum is the original animal named “opossum”. The word comes from Algonquian ‘wapathemwa’ meaning “white animal”, not from Greek or Latin, so the plural is opossums. Colloquially, the Virginia Opossum is frequently called simply possum. The name is applied more generally to any of the other marsupials of the Didelphimorphia and Paucituberculata orders, which includes a number of opossum species in South America.
The possums of Australia, whose name is derived from a similarity to the Virginia Opossum, are also marsupials, but of the order Diprotodontia.
Description: It is the largest member of its genus, family and order and is the largest of the opossums. They are typically 15–20 inches (38–51 cm) long and weigh between 9 and 13 pounds (4–6 kg). Their coats are a dull grayish brown, other than on their faces, which are white. Opossums have long, hairless, prehensile tails, which can be used to grab branches and carry small objects. They also have hairless ears and a long, flat nose. Opossums have 50 teeth and opposable, clawless thumbs on their rear limbs.
Opossums have thirteen nipples, arranged in a circle of twelve with one in the middle.