A behavioural observation of two Didelphis marsupialis (Common Opossum)

…The transect began at 18:30, which seems to be a good time for mammals. About that time everyone starts moving around, foraging, hunting, hiding in the darkness. The trail itself ran loosely towards the river, dipping from terra firme into floodplain, crossing clear streams with sandy beds on fallen giant trees before abruptly turning east along an old castaña extraction trail which ran for several kilometres, but the transect looped back around the terra firme and to the lodge skirting the castañal. I remember saying something before the beginning of the transect, something like, ‘we don’t normally see many mammals on night transects’, and then in the first 25 m we encountered three common opossums (Didelphis marsupialis) fighting in a palm.

Two were dangling by their hind feet, their bodies locked together, growling and biting at one another. The third quickly vanished, but the two struggling opossums paid us no attention. Then one dropped from the branch, perhaps 8 m in the air. We watched it’s eye shine fall (a little comedic), and it was less than 3 m from us when it thudded to the ground. I ran straight over to it, and it came slowly out of the undergrowth, passing between us on the trail, it’s back raised in an arc, every scraggly hair standing on end, growling. Then I hear the herp team approaching, and the opossum, in a flash, runs up another tree. As Brian arrives on the scene it’s picked up the courage to cross back into the palm and pick on it’s former adversary and again the two are locked upside down fighting and snarling. We continued on transect, leaving them in the darkness to settle their business…

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