Opossum Skeleton | With Examples


Opossums are small marsupials that live in North America. They are the only animal native to North America that carries their young in a pouch.

Opossums have a unique facial structure, with a long cone-shaped mouth/nose. Let’s look closer at the opossum skull and opossum skeleton.

Opossum Bones

The opossum skull has a cone-shaped appearance, with a long structured mouth that has a jawbone with 50 teeth. They have around 27 caudal vertebrae, 7 cervical, 13 thoracic, 6 lumbar, and 2 sacral vertebrae. The opossum’s skull is around 4.3 inches in length.

Opossum skeletons are rather small in size, however, they can provide a lot of information about these creatures. Now that you know a few details about the opossum skeleton, let’s take a closer look at what the bones can tell us (with examples of an opossum skull!)

Opossum Skeleton Anatomy

The anatomy of an opossum skeleton consists of a skull, vertebrae, ribs, phalanges, femur, scapula, humerus, pelvis bone, and caudal vertebrae from the tail, to name a few.

Opossum Skeleton Labeled List

  • Skull
  • Orbit
  • Canines
  • Molars
  • Incisors
  • Mandible
  • Zygomatic Arch
  • Sagittal Crest
  • Cervical Vert. Scapula
  • Thoracic Vertebrae
  • Lumber Vert. Ilium
  • Sacral Vert.
  • Femur
  • Caudal Vertebrae
  • Phalanges
  • Metacarpals
  • Carpals
  • Radius
  • Ulna
  • Humerus
  • Sternum
  • Epipubic
  • Tibia
  • Metatarsals
  • Tarsals
  • Fibula
  • Ischium
  • Patella
  • Pubis

The bone structure of an opossum is not extremely complicated. It resembles most small mammals. The fact that they are marsupial mammals, makes them different only in that they carry their young in their pouch, with not much difference in bone structure.

Opossum Skeleton – Video Example

Opossum Skull (With Examples)

Opossum skulls are small, however, because of their large pointy face, they have many features. The skull is around 4.3 inches in length and around 2 inches in height. The skull has an orbit, zygomatic arch, sagittal crest, canines, Incisors, and mandible.

Opossum Skull Identification

To identify an opossum skull, you should look for the long mandible, 50 teeth, and the zygomatic arch on the sides of the skull. These all contribute to the unique shape of the opossum’s skull. They have one of the longest skulls for a mammal of their size. This makes the opossum skull identification a little easier since they have a very noticeable structure.

Baby Opossum Skull

Baby opossums are around the size of a peanut. This means that their skulls are very tiny and fragile. When they are young, they stay in their mother’s pouch, where they feed on the teets. Later when they get a little larger and older, they come out of the pouch to learn the ropes of surviving in the wild.

A baby opossum skull would be a rare thing to find. It would most likely be hard to identify because it may resemble other small creatures like bird skulls or baby squirrel skulls.

Opossum Teeth

How many teeth does an opossum have? They have 50 teeth. Opossums have long mouths that come to a point. This gives their head a very distinctive look. As a defense mechanism, opossums will show their teeth, in an attempt to scare away animals that may try to prey on them. They also play dead, which you can read more about below.

Read our article for Do Opossums Play Dead?

Opossum Jaw Bone

The opossum’s jawbone (also known as a mandible) is long, making the front of their face appear cone-shaped. The jawbone holds 50 teeth, including canines, molars, and Incisors. An opossum jawbone should be easy to identify because of its long shape.

Opossum Spine

An opossum spine consists of cervical vertebrae, thoracic vertebrae, lumbar vertebrae, sacral vertebrae, and caudal vertebrae. The caudal vertebrae (that make up the tail) can have a variation from 26-29 links, averaging around 27.

Evidence has shown that part of the opossum spine, such as the caudal, can heal itself, before, and after an injury. Source.

Opossum Tail

These vertebrae serve the opossum in many different, but familiar ways. The most interesting part of the opossum, I think, is the long links of caudal vertebrae in the tail. Their tails are oftentimes longer than their body, which is proof of how versatile they can be. They use their tails for balance, as well as to feel things while moving through the dark.

Raccoon Skull Vs Opossum Skull

Raccoon skulls look a little bit similar to opossum skulls. The two animals have many similarities, in their tracks, their size, and sometimes their skull. If there is any confusion between a raccoon skull vs opossum skull, I hope to clear that up for you.

The opossum skull has a much more pointy facial structure. The mandible on an opossum is slightly longer than a raccoon’s mandible. Because both skulls and similar in size, you must look more closely at the shape of the mandible, the pointy structure of the skull, and the number of teeth.

The raccoon only has 40 teeth, while the opossum has an impressive 50 teeth. This is the best way to identify between the two.

Cat Skull Vs Opossum Skull

Cat skeletons are very similar looking in size, and shape, to opossum skeletons. However, the cat skull can be easy to identify when trying to figure out if it is a cat skull vs opossum skull.

The cat skull is small and almost round-shaped, whereas the opossum skull has a much longer mandible, making its skull appear much more pointy than the cat’s skull. Cat skulls only have 30 teeth, making it easy to tell them apart from an opossum’s skull.

Featured image credit – Source.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do opossums lose baby teeth?

Opossums get a first set of teeth before their permanent teeth set in. These are called milk teeth. After they are weaned, their milk teeth recede into the jawbone, and then their permanent teeth start to grow in their place.

Where can you find an opossum skeleton?

You may be able to find a skeleton if you live in an area where opossums are abundant. You can also find many examples of opossum skeletons on forums, in museums, and on display in oddities collections.

How long are opossum canine teeth?

The opossum canines are much larger than the other teeth that they possess. The canines are around 0.5 inches long. The top canines are larger than the bottom canines. This helps them look fierce, and can sometimes scare away predators.

Chad Fox

Chad Fox is an outdoorsman who loves spending time in nature, working on ranches in Texas, and observing wildlife.

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