Difference Beetwin Possum and Opossum

Difference Beetwin Possum and Opossum post thumbnail image

Possum vs possum

Is it a possum or a nematode? I have read many articles about the possum vs possum question, and it seems that very few have managed to find the right answer. At least not the full answer. Everyone says that the opossum is a cute furry marsupial in Australia (they refer to the common cystic-tailed opossum, Trichosurus vulpecula) and that the opossum is a some marsupial of a terrible species in North America (they refer to the Virginia opossum, Didelphis virginiana). This answer is incorrect for two reasons. Who are they? Read on and let’s end this possum confrontation once and for all. What is the real difference between Possum and a female possum?

What is the real difference between a possum and a female possum?

The real answer to possum vs possum is that the word possum is the name used for more than 100 different species of marsupials in North, central and South America (representatives of the families Didelphidae and Caenolestidae), including the Virginia possum, which is only found in North America. The word possum is applied to an even more diverse group of about 67 species of marsupials living in Australia and the nearby islands of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia (member of the suborder phalangium from 6 different families).

The second solution, and I admit that this is solely my opinion, is that the Virginia opossum is not scary or frightening. In fact, they are cute, adorable and, yes, even cute animals. Sure, they have a lot of teeth (more than any other mammal) and yes, they have little beaded eyes and something like a rat tail, but as long as you don’t scare them, they won’t scare you! We have a lot of them in the yard and we think they are adorable. I also had the pleasure of working with several minor when I was volunteering at a wildlife rehabilitation center. They were so cute!

Why all this confusion about Possum vs Possum?


The reason for all this confusion is that Americans often use the word “possum” to refer to the possum. In fact, many people in the United States do not even realize that actually this animal here is called a possum, not Possum. It seems to be particularly common in the South and Midwest, where the opossum is the main home.

How did this mess start? The word “opossum” was first used to describe the Virginia opossum by early British settler around 1610. Supposedly, it was taken from the local language Pouhatan and first appeared in writing as opassom and aposoum. One hundred and sixty year after, a British naturalist named Joseph Banks joined Captain James Cook on his voyage to Australia and borrowed the name opossum to describe some vaguely similar marsupials he found there. Why did you leave out the “o”? No idea. Why do so many Americans use the word “possum” when referring to a possum? I still have no idea. But there seems to be a rather old confusion here.

So, should I use Possum or Possum in writing?

If you want to be technically correct, you should use the word opossum when dealing with animals in the Americas, and use the word possum when dealing with animals in Australia and nearby islands.

The family Didelphidae (“real” opossums) contains 96 to 102 species of opossums (depending on who you ask), and the family Caenolestidae contains 7 species of shrew opossums. Although scientists generally say that possums are not technically possums (and they are certainly not shrews), the name “possums” is still widely used to describe them.

The only opossum native to the United States is the Virginia opossum. But as we move further south, the diversity of possums begins to increase dramatically! Like their Australian counterparts, all opossums are marsupials, meaning they give birth to small, undeveloped cubs that must be stuffed into a pouch and held onto by the nipple in order to survive. The problem is that not all marsupials have a bag. Here is a Virginia opossum caught in our photo trap while visiting a compost bin in our backyard.

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