The Purdue Plant and Pest Diagnostic Laboratory

Opossums vs. Possums?

The following question was sent to the P&PDL diagnosticians here at Purdue University:

Question: Is there was a difference between an opossum and a possum? I think that opossums are found in North America and possums are only found in Australia. Am I right?

Answer: We checked local sources of information such as zoos, textbooks, and field guides, and found only references to Opossums. Recently, I came across a book called Orders and Families of Recent Mammals of the World by Sydney Anderson and J. Knox Jones, Jr. In this book, new world members of the family Didelphidae are refered to as opossums, but the Australasian relatives of our opossums (family Phalangeriformes) are called possums.

What ever you choose to call them, opossums or possums, these animals are interesting members of the group of pouched mammals called marsupials.

--Judy S. Loven, State Director, Indiana Wildlife Services


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