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Thesis Abstract – Rowland (1982)


Suburban Zoology of the North American Opossum Didelphis marsupialis virginiana

Author and college:

Shelley A. Rowland


April 23, 1982


Bachelor of Arts in Biology


Dan Guthrie, Joint Science Department of Claremont McKenna, Pitzer, and Scripps Colleges


A preliminary study on the suburban ecology of Didelphis marsupialis virginiana was done. Attention was paid to feeding habits, amount of daily water consumed, behavior, population size and spatial patterns. An important aspect of this study was to determine if the techniques used are suitable for a suburban environment. Twelve food types were given to eleven captive opossum. Of these, two foods were not eaten while seven foods were eaten at least 50% of the time. The maximum amount of water drunk was 600 ml daily. Escape and defense behaviors are passive, consisting of hissing and growling grading into a scream. Biting only occurs as a last resort. If possible, the opossum will escape up a tree or under an object. The female is aggressive towards the male in all situations other than mating. The male is submissive to the female. Young animals are defensive towards adult males. No aggression was displayed by the young towards their mother or siblings. The population size is estimated to be 4 animals/sq. mile. No signs of starvation were seen in the captured animals. Cuts and various wounds were observed. The spatial movements of three opossums using radio-telemetry indicates that there are preferred denning sites. Home ranges do overlap and are fluid. Males move farther than females. A possible correlation between density of vegetation and the presence of water may influence the selection of denning sites.

For more information:

Contact Velda Ross – vross@kecksci.claremont.edu

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