Virginia Opossum

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The Virginia opossum is a homeotherm that has a much lower amount of expanded energy due to thermoregulation than any other placental mammal.

The Virginia opossum has a much lower amount of expanded energy due to thermoregulation than any other placental mammal.

The opossum is a homeotherm that can maintain its body temperature at ambient temperatures that are lower than zero degrees Celsius. Many thermoregulatory measures are taken by the opossum in low temperatures. The species has been known to use shivering, vasoconstriction, piloerection, and even avoidance of the low temperatures. This species copes with extreme heat by spreading its saliva as a cooling mechanism. Sweat glands have proved to be nonfunctional and skin glands are located on the ventral side of males.

Signs of temperature regulation were first noted in young at the age of 55 to 60 days old, at which the young are still living in the pouch of the female. At 95 days of age young Virginia opossums were found to be able to hold a deep body temperature constant at ambient temperatures as low as five degrees Celsius for a time period of two hours.

Sources: (Allen, Marchinton, & MacLentz, 1985; Burnie, Wilson, & Clutton-Brock, 2001; Christiansen, 2006; Gipson & Palmer, 2001; Hoffmeister, 2002; Hossler, McAninch, & Harder, 1994; Kimble, 1997; Ladine & Kissell, Jr., 1994; McManus, 1974; McRuer & Jones, 2009; Pérez-Hernandez, R., Lew, D., & Solari, 2016; Siciliano, 2013; Wilemon, 2008; Wright, Burt, & Jackson, 2012; Weber & O’Connor, 2000; Wilemon, 2008)
Image: Christa R.

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