Oh boy, I thought carrying around one baby was a lot of work! I can’t even fathom the idea of having fifteen little monkeys climbing all over me. I would go absolutely bananas!
The Journey of a Baby Opossum
Opossum are an ancient species dating back to the prehistoric era. They’re one of the few remaining groups of mammals known as marsupials. What makes a mammal a marsupial is that their females have pouches to hold their young. The kangaroo is another commonly known marsupial.
This pouch, or marsupium, isn’t where the baby begins. Though it does spend a good deal of time there. They go through conception the good old fashioned way, starting with a male and a female.
After an opossum becomes pregnant, she only grows her babies for around twelve days. That’s less than two weeks of pregnancy time! Once these little peanuts are born they use their front legs to climb their way into mama’s pouch. I say peanuts, because that’s about what size they are at this point. They’re actually called pups or joeys.
One litter can have as many as twenty pups. The process of getting into the pouch, though, can be a challenge far greater than what some of them are up for. Many of them don’t make it that far, falling off only to wither away without the needed care of their mother.
There are only thirteen nipples inside of the opossum pouch. So even if more than that make it, only thirteen will likely survive. They spend around two months without leaving the pouch, before they begin to venture out. The marsupium stretches with the little ones as they grow.
The three-month stage is when you’ll see them catching a ride on Mom’s back. They wrap their little tails around hers to keep from falling off. Around four months they start to wander off to live their own lives.
This opossum is one excellent mother. Fifteen babies are an outstanding survival rate. Especially since mama opossum only have thirteen available food dispensers. Perhaps it was just good teamwork all the way around.