Saving threatened habitats worldwide

Water Opossum

© Bruce Pearson

© Bruce Pearson

Class: Mammalia

Order: Didelphimorphia

Family: Didelphidae

Scientific Name:Chironectes minimus

IUCN Red List status:Least Concern


Protected by the following WLT projects:

   

Species Range (IUCN)

Description

The Water Opossum, also known as the Yapok, is a semi-aquatic marsupial. It has marbled grey and black water-repellent fur and webbed hind feet. Like all marsupials, Water Opossums have a pouch; this can be closed by a strong ring of muscles to make it watertight so that the young remain dry when the mother is immersed in water.

Behaviour

Water Opossums are nocturnal carnivores, with a diet comprising fish, crustaceans and insects. They use their long tail and webbed hind feet to propel themselves through the water, while the forefeet are used to feel for and grab prey as they swim. They build dens underground in the riverbank.

They mate in December and after a gestation period of 27 weeks, the female gives birth to a litter of up to five young. The young are born blind and naked and develop within the mother’s pouch until they are seven weeks old.

Habitat

The Water Opossum can be found in freshwater streams in the forests of Mexico and Central and South America.

Threats and Conservation

The biggest threat to the species is the degradation of water courses that the Water Opossum requires. This may occur through Artisanal gold-mining, which is one of the most significant sources of mercury release into the environment.

References

1. IUCN Red List  
2. ARKive

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