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Difference between Opossum and Possum

Difference between Opossum and Possum

Do you know the difference between an opossum and a possum? Many people use the words interchangeably, but there is a big difference between the two creatures. In fact, they are in different families! Learn more about these fascinating animals in this post.

What is Opossum?

Opossums are small to medium-sized marsupials native to the Americas. They typically have gray fur, black eyes, and a long tail. Opossums are omnivorous and typically eat insects, small mammals, and fruit. Opossums are nocturnal animals and are most active at night. They are relatively solitary creatures but may live in small groups. Opossums typically live for two to four years in the wild but can live up to 10 years in captivity. Opossums are unique among mammals in that they have a prehensile tail, which they use for climbing and grasping objects. Opossums are also known for playing dead (a behavior known as “playing possum”), which they do in response to predators or perceived threats.

What is Possum?

Possum is a marsupial of the order Didelphimorphia endemic to the continent of Australia. Possums are nocturnal creatures that are proficient climbers. Possums have round heads, pointed snouts, and furry bodies.

Possums are relatively small animals; the largest possum species, the common brushtail possum, can grow up to three feet in length and weigh up to fourteen pounds. Possums are omnivorous animals, meaning they eat both plants and animals.

Possums play an important role in the ecosystem by dispersing seeds and controlling insect populations. Possums are also hunted for their fur; Possum fur is used in a variety of garments including hats, gloves, and coats. In recent years, Possum numbers have declined due to habitat loss and hunting pressure; Possums have now been considered a threatened species in many parts of Australia.

Difference between Opossum and Possum

Opossums and possums are often confused because of their similarities in spelling and pronunciation, but they are actually two different animals.

  • Opossums are native to North America, while possums are found in Australia and New Guinea.
  • Opossums are small to medium-sized marsupials, while possums are marsupial rodents.
  • Opossums have pointed snouts and long, prehensile tails, while possums have shorter noses and rounder tails.
  • Opossums are also nocturnal, while possums are active during the day.
  • Perhaps the most significant difference between opossums and possums is that opossums are typically considered beneficial animals because they help to control insect populations, while possums can be destructive and may carry diseases.

Knowing the difference between these two animals can help you better understand the unique characteristics of each.


The opossum (Didelphis virginiana) and the possum (Procyon lotor) are both members of the family Didelphidae, but they are different animals. The opossum is found in North America, while the possum is from Australia and New Zealand. Possums were introduced to California in the 1920s and have become a major pest there. Opossums are marsupials, while possums are placental mammals. The opossum has a prehensile tail, while the possum does not. The opossum is white or gray with black hair on its head and feet, while the possum is brown or black with a white stripe down its back. Possums eat mostly insects and fruit, while opossums eat mostly invertebrates and carrion.

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