The opossums make up the largest order of marsupials in the Western Hemisphere. They are also commonly called possums, particularly in the southern United States.
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- Their unspecialized biology, flexible diet, and reproductive habits make them successful colonizers and survivors in diverse locations and conditions.
- Opossums have a remarkably robust immune system, and show partial or total immunity to the venom of rattlesnakes, cottonmouths, and other pit vipers
- Opossums are usually solitary and nomadic, staying in one area as long as food and water are easily available. Some families will group together in ready-made burrows or even under houses.
- When threatened or harmed, they will "play possum", mimicking the appearance and smell of a sick or dead animal. This physiological response is involuntary like fainting, rather than a conscious act.
- A mother will sometimes carry her young upon her back, where they will cling tightly even when she is climbing or running.
- Adult opossums do not hang from trees by their tails, as sometimes depicted, though babies may dangle temporarily.
- They will temporarily occupy abandoned burrows, they do not dig or put much effort into building their own. As nocturnal animals, they favor dark, secure areas. These areas may be below ground or above.
- Opossums are scavengers, and they often visit human homes or settlements to raid garbage cans, dumpsters, and other containers. They are attracted to carrion and can often be spotted near roadkill.