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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Possums

In just about anywhere in the United States, and now some regions of Canada, you can find possums hiding under the porch or in a possum pot pie. They also have deep roots in Southern culture, from mentions in Appalachian music and uses in rural Southern cuisine.

Despite being a common sight across North America, possums are hated by many for being a nuisance. But how much do you actually know about your pesky little neighbors? Check out these 10 fun facts about possums

10. They’re actually called “opossums”

Imgur/RoadTripped
Imgur/RoadTripped

The name “possum” is a misnomer. The American possum is actually called an “opossum.” But for some reason, they’re commonly referred to as “possums.” Real possums are actually the common brushtail possum, or trichosurus vulpecula, an entirely different species from Australia.

9. Natural immunity

Due to their low body temperature and successful immune system, possums are mostly immune to rabies. In fact, they’re eight times less likely to carry rabies compared to a wild dog.

8. Forked penis

Yes, you read that correctly. The penis of a male possum is “bifurcated,” or split on the end like a two-pronged fork. That’s kind of a tricky situation for the female opossum. We’ll spare you from looking at the pictures of it…

7. Smile!

Flickr/Florida Fish and Wildlife
Flickr/Florida Fish and Wildlife

With a mouthful of 50 sharp teeth, the Virginia opossum has more teeth than any other North American mammal.

6. Stubby tails

Flickr/Dawn Huczek
Flickr/Dawn Huczek

In northern regions, possums often have abnormally short tails. That’s because the ends are lost due to frostbite.

5. The lone marsupial

Flickr/Heather Paul
Flickr/Heather Paul

The Virginia opossum is the only marsupial that inhabits the United States.

4. They’re prehistoric

These pesky critters have been annoying people for a long time! A University of Florida researcher traced the existence of possums as far back as the extinction of dinosaurs

3. “Play possum”

Flickr/Tony Alter
Flickr/Tony Alter

No, they’re not dead, they’re just “playing possum.” When threatened, a possum will hiss and show its teeth to try to ward off a predator. If this doesn’t stop the predator from attacking, the possum will pretend to be dead, falling to his side, curling up and opening his mouth. This is known as “playing possum.” And it turns out to be a pretty successful defense mechanism! It often results in a predator walking away.

2. They have thumbs

Flickr/bmendez68
Flickr/bmendez68

Possums are the only non-primate mammal (i.e. humans, gorillas and monkeys) to have opposable thumbs

1. The Possum Capital

We know where you won’t want to take your next vacation. Brasstown, N.C., has been dubbed the “Possum Capital of the World.” Every New Year’s Eve, Brasstown drops a possum at the stroke of midnight at its annual “Possum Drop.”

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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Possums