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Briefly, an opossum’s tail is long and hairless like that of a rat and it can be as long as 20 inches. It is a prehensile tail that can wrap around an object and move it around, but it is also limited as to the weight that it can carry.
There are a lot of tales surrounding the shape and functionality of the opossum’s tail. And the most popular one out of these tales is that opossums are capable of using their tails to hang unto trees and even sleep while doing so like bats do with their heads hanging down.
This is indeed false because the tail of an adult opossum is not strong enough to carry the animal’s weight while hanging from the branch of a tree. However, the young ones that are smaller and less heavy are capable of hanging from the branch of a tree with their tails for short periods of time – a few seconds to be precise. All the same, even the young ones are incapable of sleeping with their tails wrapped around a tree because they can only hang this way for a few seconds at a time.
What is the opossum’s tail used for?
Being prehensile in nature, the opossum’s tail is able to wrap around objects and manipulate them, thus it can perform a couple of functions.
Opossums rarely make burrows of their own, but are very good at making their own nests inside the abandoned burrows of other animals. They would gather all the nesting material needed with their tail and carry them back to the den. Nesting materials are mainly twigs and grasses.
The tail is also used to take food back to the burrows for their young ones that are yet incapable of going to forage. Notably, they use their feet to hold objects too.
The tail often acts as their fifth appendage as well. Opossum limbs have opposable thumbs and thus are used for holding things as well as for movement and balancing. The tail, on the other hands, is used to balance when they move from one tree to another, preventing them from falling down.
The tail is thus a very functional part of an opossum’s body.
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