The Awesome Opossum Evolution

By Sophia-Joy Agbelese


Opossums, known to scientists as Didelphimorphias, are family members of animals that have been on this earth for over 50 million years. Asides from eating your trash and roaming backyards, opossums have some great evolutionary history.

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Marsupial History

An opossum is part of a group of animals called marsupials. Marsupials are animals that are born not fully developed and are carried in a pouch. These include kangaroos, wombats, and koalas. Through research using the skull and two skeletons of a Herpetotheriidae, researchers have concluded that the opossum's relative separated from the rest of marsupials at least 65 million years ago.

Relatives of Opossums

Sinodelphys- relative of all marsupials and lived 125 million years ago

Mimoperadectes houdei- earliest opossum that lived 56-48 million years ago

Oligocene herpetotheriid- peradectid marsupial that lived 55 million years ago

Peradectids- sister group of all opossums and was alive 55 million years ago

Herpetotheriidae- called sister of all living marsupials and was alive 30 million years ago

Didelphodon- a Cretaceous ancestor of the modern opossum

Evidence of the relatives of opossums

You may be saying, ok.... you've given me a list of long names, what does that have to do with opossums?

Researchers realized that these animals were all related by looking at their:

  • skulls
  • skeletons
  • ear
  • size of body
  • jaws
  • teeth

By looking at these parts, it helped researchers find out when opossums separated from the rest of the marsupials.

Fossil Record

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Other relatives to the opossum

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