Virginia Opossum

Virginia Opossum

Virginia opossums engage in a polygynous mating system in which males vie for females with metallic clicks and chest scent glands which emit a musky odor and stain the fur.

Didelphid marsupials, including Virginia opossums, engage in a polygynous mating system, in which males vie for reproductive females. During the breeding season, mates may use olfactory and auditory signals to communicate with each other, including emitting a series of metallic sounding clicks.

Female Virginia opossums experience an approximately 29.5 day estrous cycle. Upon entering estrous, breeding begins almost immediately.

Males possess a sexually dimorphic sternal scent gland on their chest, which emits a musky odor and stains their fur. This is most commonly observed near the onset of the breeding season. Males are also able to detect females based on scent. Research suggests that males are able to identify particular females based on scent alone, whereas females are able to distinguish between the genders but are not able to discern among individual males.

Although males typically only participate in breeding for one year, they are technically not semelparous because most ranges involve 2 to 3 breeding seasons per year. However, in one study, among approximately 12,000 trapped Virginia opossums, no adult males were found.

The reproductive system of the male is composed of a scrotum and a hemipenis. The female reproductive system is composed of three vagina, two vagina, which receive the sperm and are laterally placed, and a centrally placed median vagina, which serves the purpose of a birth canal.

Sources: (Christiansen, 2006; Fernandes, Cruz, & Martins, 2010; Gipson & Kamler, 2001; Harmon, et al., 2005; Holmes, 1992, December; Hossler, McAninch, & Harder, 1994; Kimble, 1997; Kolb and Wang, 1985; McManus, 1974; McRuer & Jones, 2009; O’Connell, 2006; Siciliano, 2013; Wilemon, 2008; Woods II & Hellgren, 2003)
Image: Helena Jacoba


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