When we think of animals that are native to Australia who carry their young in pouches, we often think of kangaroo mothers exclusively.
This doesn’t, however, mean that there aren’t other members of the animal kingdom that have pouches that they use to insulate their babies.
If you’ve ever wondered if other marsupials, such as the opossum, carry their young in a pouch too, you’re not alone.
To find out more about this topic, keep reading, because we’ve got all of the answers below.
Does The Opossum Have A Pouch?
Possums, although native to Australia, can also be spotted widely over the US. You might have seen them roaming around from time to time, but often aren’t able to get a good look at them.
Genetically, possums are a part of the marsupial family, which is the same as kangaroos. Does this mean then, that they too have pouches in which they carry their young?
The simple answer is yes, possums do in fact have pouches located on their fronts.
Although this pouch is not very visible, or as noticeable as the one that you might find on a kangaroo, this doesn’t mean that they don’t have them. In fact, they’re an incredibly important part of their genetic make up.
If you’ve wondered if the possums are born within the pouch, the answer is no.
Possums are born through the female’s reproductive system, and crawl their way up to the pouch where they will remain in order to find all the nutrients they need.
A rather sad fact about this process is that female possums tend to give birth to around 20 young in a single session.
As you can imagine, the pouch that she has on her stomach isn’t big enough to house all of these baby possums. As a result, only half of the young possums make it to the pouch and therefore survive.
What Is The Reproductive System Of An Opossum Like?
Before we move on to discuss the pouches found on the stomachs of possums any further, first let’s take a look at their reproductive systems.
Possums have what is called a bifurcated reproductive system, which means that the female possum’s uterus is divided.
They reproduce sexually, in the same way that other mammals do.
Because the placenta contained in the female’s reproductive system can’t stay in place for very long, this means that possums actually have relatively short pregnancies.
In fact, the baby possums will be born in up to 14 days. This is remarkable, considering the fact that the baby possums can find their way into the pouch themselves when they are only the size of a human nail.
What Purpose Does Their Pouch Serve?
As we mentioned above, female possums aren’t able to retain their placenta for very long, which means that they have incredibly short pregnancies.
This means that the baby possums are only the size of a peanut when they’re born, and still require a lot of protection and nutrients in order to develop and survive.
This is where the pouch comes in. Just like with kangaroos, there are several teats contained within the pouch for the young possums to feed on.
They will latch on to the teat, and it will serve as a life supply for them until they are grown.
Because they are so underdeveloped and small, they will spend a long time hidden within the confines of the pouch until they are ready to emerge.
They will actually rest here for up to two months until they are strong enough to enter the outside world.
At the end of this two month period, possums will have gained the ability to both see and hear things, which they previously could not in the other stage of development.
Once they have emerged and have ventured outside of the pouch, they will begin to move freely by themselves, and enjoy time away from their mothers.
They will however, continue to rely on her still, and depend on her for longer periods of mobility. The baby possums will attach themselves to their mother’s back, where she will carry them around.
This will happen for around a month, and after that, they’ll be free to move around by themselves.
Do Male Opossums Have Pouches?
This is another frequently asked question by many, regarding whether or not male possums have pouches too. The simple answer is no, male possums do not have pouches.
It is solely the responsibility of the female to take care of her young and provide them with the nutrients they need.
There is a variety of possum however, called the water possum, and as you may have guessed, they reside primarily in the water. The males of this species do in fact have a pouch.
How Long Do Possums Live?
Provided that they make the journey from to the pouch, and furthermore, are able to adequately latch on their mothers backs for survival, possums can live a relatively long life.
The average possum will live for around four years. The longest living possum lived for four years and five months when kept in captivity.
As we mentioned before, not all possums which have been born will continue to survive and live in their mother’s pouch. Around 50 percent will not make it.
Although many people aren’t aware, possums have pouches just like other marsupials such as the kangaroo.
They give birth to around 20 young, and around 50 percent of those will survive and continue to reside in their mother’s pouch.
It takes around 2 months for a baby possum to develop in the pouch, after this they will venture out and latch on to their mother’s back to get around.