The opossum is a marsupial, an animal with a pouch. Opossums are the only pouched animals in North America. This common or Virginia opossum is about the size of a cat and has grayish fur. It has a long, light-gray snout. With its long, hairless tail, the opossum can carry things or even hang upside down from a tree branch.
   The opossum does not seem to be a very intelligent animal. Its only interests seem to be in keeping safe, comfortable, and free from hunger. It will eat anything—insects, fruits, other animals, eggs, or roots. The meat of the opossum is edible. When surprised by a hunter, an opossum falls into a state of shock and paralysis and appears to be dead. It is fear, not intelligence, that gives it this trick of "playing 'possum."
   Opossums belong to a group of marsupials called didelphids, meaning that the female has two wombs. There is no placenta, however, which would be the source of food for the unborn offspring. As a result, newborn opos­sums are very small, undeveloped creatures. A litter often contains more infants than the mother can feed. First arrivals attach themselves to a nipple and the late ones starve. The survivors grow rapidly and crawl out of the pouch and attach themselves to the mother's back, where they ride until they can take care of themselves.
   There are numerous other varieties of opos­sum in South and Central America. Like the North American opossum, they are generally neither friendly, beautiful, nor intelligent. The opossum has survived unchanged and untamed for thousands of years.