Chordates • Earth.com

Common brushtail possum

(Trichosurus vulpecula)

galery

Description

The common brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula, from the Greek for "furry tailed" and the Latin for "little fox", previously in the genus Phalangista) is a nocturnal, semiarboreal marsupial of the family Phalangeridae, native to Australia and naturalised in New Zealand, and the second-largest of the possums. Like most possums, the common brushtail possum is nocturnal. It is mainly a folivore, but has been known to eat small mammals such as rats. In most Australian habitats, eucalyptus leaves are a significant part of the diet, but rarely the sole item eaten. Its tail is prehensile and naked on its lower underside. The four colour variations are silver-grey, brown, black, and gold. It is the Australian marsupial most often seen by city dwellers, as it is one of few that thrive in cities and a wide range of natural and human-modified environments. Around human habitations, common brushtails are inventive and determined foragers with a liking for fruit trees, vegetable gardens, and kitchen raids. The common brushtail possum was introduced to New Zealand in the 1850s to establish a fur industry, but in the mild subtropical climate of New Zealand, and with few to no natural predators, it thrived to the extent that it became a major agricultural and conservation pest. The common brushtail possum has large and pointed ears. Its bushy tail (hence its name) is adapted to grasping branches, prehensile at the end with a hairless ventral patch. Its fore feet have sharp claws and the first toe of each hind foot is clawless, but has a strong grasp. The possum grooms itself with the third and fourth toes which are fused together. It has a thick and woolly pelage that varies in colour depending on the subspecies. Colour patterns tend to be silver-grey, brown, black, red, or cream. The ventral areas are typically lighter and the tail is usually brown or black. The muzzle is marked with dark patches. The common brushtail possum has a head and body length of 32–58 cm with a tail length of 24–40 cm. It weighs 1.2-4.5 kg. Males are generally larger than females. In addition, the coat of the male tends to be reddish at the shoulders. As with most marsupials, the female brushtail possum has a forward-opening, well-developed pouch. The chest of both sexes has a scent gland that emits a reddish secretion which stains that fur around it. It marks its territory with these secretions.

Taxonomic tree:

Domain:
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum:
Class: Mammalia
Order:Diprotodontia
Family:Phalangeridae
Genus:Trichosurus
News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day