(Last Updated On: April 15, 2021)

The common brushtail possum, scientific name Trichosurus vulpecula, from the Greek for “furry tailed” and the Latin for “little fox”, beforehand within the genus Phalangista) is a nocturnal, semi-arboreal marsupial of the family Phalangeridae, native to Australia, and the second-largest of the possums.

Common Brushtail Possum Profile

In its native Australia, the brushtail possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) feeds primarily on Eucalyptus leaves, however high ranges of phenolics, terpenoids and different chemical defenses in eucalypt foliage limits the consumption of any one species.

In New Zealand forests a high proportion of plant species is palatable and brushtail possum diets embrace all kinds of foliage and fleshy fruits.

The New Zealand crops most favored by possums are usually these producing foliage or fruits high in carbohydrates. In addition to their staple diet of foliage and fruits, possums additionally feed on flowers, the pollen cones of launched pines, bugs, and bird eggs and nestlings.

Like most possums, the common brushtail possum is nocturnal. It is principally a folivore, however has been identified to eat small mammals reminiscent of rats.

In most Australian habitats, leaves of eucalyptus are a big part of the diet, however not often the only merchandise eaten. The tail is prehensile and bare on its decrease underside. The 4 color variations are silver-grey, brown, black, and gold.

It is the Australian marsupial most frequently seen by city dwellers, as it’s certainly one of few that thrive in cities and a large range of natural and human-modified environments. Around human habitations, common brushtails are ingenious and decided foragers with a liking for fruit bushes, vegetable gardens, and kitchen raids.

The common brushtail possum was launched to New Zealand within the 1850s to determine a fur trade, however within the gentle subtropical local weather of New Zealand, and with few to no natural predators, it thrived to the extent that it turned a serious agricultural and conservation pest.

Reproduction is very seasonal with the primary breeding season in autumn. A secondary season in spring generally happens when the diet is sweet. Gestation is 17-18 days. Single new child younger (c. 0.2g) crawl into the pouch and fasten to a teat.

Most improvement happens inside the pouch, the place they continue to be for 120 – 140 days. The young stay with the mom (initially driving on her back) for an extra 100 days or more, changing into unbiased from 240 -270 days old. Females could mature at one year old; males at 15 months or more.

Geographic Range

Trichosurus vulpecula has the widest distribution of any Australian mammal. It will be discovered all through most of Australia and Tasmania. It additionally thrives in New Zealand, the place it was launched in 1840.


Trichosurus vulpecula often resides in forested or woodland areas. These habitats fluctuate vastly all through their range. In Tasmania, Trichosurus vulpecula will be discovered all through the rainforests and dry woodlands that cover over 60% of the world.

In the Australian northwest, it prefers eucalyptus forests and mangroves. In southern Australia, in addition, they reside in wooded areas, however are generally discovered dwelling a semi-terrestrial life the place they den in rock crevasses and termite mounds. In New Zealand, Trichosurus vulpecula will be present in most forested areas.

Common Brushtail Possum

Common Brushtail Possum Description

The common brushtail possum has massive and pointed ears. Its bushy tail (therefore its name) is tailored to greedy branches, prehensile on the end with a hairless ventral patch.

Its forefeet have sharp claws and the first toe of every hind foot is clawless, however has a powerful grasp. The possum grooms itself with the third and fourth toes that are fused collectively.

It has a thick and woolly pelage that varies in color relying on the subspecies. Colour patterns are usually silver-grey, brown, black, red, or cream. The ventral areas are sometimes lighter and the tail is often brown or black. The muzzle is marked with darkish patches.

The common brushtail possum has a head and body size of 32–58 cm with a tail size of 24–40 cm. It weighs 1.2-4.5 kg. Males are typically bigger than females. In addition, the coat of the male tends to be reddish on the shoulders.

As with most marsupials, the feminine brushtail possum has a forward-opening, well-developed pouch. The chest of each sex has a scent gland that emits a reddish secretion which stains the fur around it. It marks its territory with these secretions.

Common Brushtail Possum Physical Characteristics

Body size is 320-580 mm and the tail size is 240-350 mm.

Trichosurus vulpecula has massive eyes and tall rounded ears. Its fur is brief however dense, and its tail is often long and is roofed in long bushy fur. In some subspecies, the fur on the tail is identical in size as on the remainder of the body.

Throughout its range, there’s appreciable variation within the coat shade of Trichosurus vulpecula. The color appears to fluctuate in response to habitat, and a number of other subspecies have been recognized.

Three of the subspecies are sometimes gray in shade: T.v. vulpecula is discovered all through southern Australia; T.v. arnhemensis is discovered within the northern tropical areas of Australia; and T.v. eburacensis is present in Cape York. T.v. johnsoni is present in eastern Queensland and is often red in shade. The subspecies T.v. fuliginosus, which is present in Tasmania, has black coat coloration.

In all subspecies, the underside is lighter in shade. A scent gland positioned on the chest is used to mark territories. The reddish secretions from this gland give the fur around it a brown or reddish look. Like most marsupials, the females have a small, ahead of the opening pouch that’s utilized in reproduction.

Common Brushtail Possum Range and habitat

The common brushtail possum is maybe probably the most widespread marsupial of Australia. It is discovered all through the eastern and northern components of the continent, in addition to some western areas, Tasmania, and quite a lot of offshore islands, reminiscent of Kangaroo Island and Barrow Island.

It can also be widespread in New Zealand since its introduction in 1850. The common brushtail possum will be present in a wide range of habitats, reminiscent of forests, semi-arid areas, and even cultivated or city areas.

It is usually a forest inhabiting species, nonetheless, it’s also present in treeless areas. In New Zealand, possums favor broadleaf-podocarp close to farmland pastures. In southern beech forests and pine plantations, possums are much less common. Overall, brushtail possums are more densely populated in New Zealand than in their native Australia.

Common Brushtail Possum

This could also be as a result of Australia has more fragmented eucalypt forests and more predators. In Australia, brushtail possums are threatened by people, tiger quolls, dogs, foxes, cats, goannas, carpet snakes, and highly effective owls.

In New Zealand, brushtail possums are threatened solely by people and cats. The IUCN spotlight the inhabitant’s pattern in Australia is reducing.

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Common Brushtail Possum Food and foraging

The common brushtail possum can adapt to quite a few sorts of vegetation. It prefers Eucalyptus leaves, but in addition eats flowers, shoots, fruits, and seeds. It may devour animal matter reminiscent of bugs, birds’ eggs, and chicks, and different small vertebrates.

Brushtail possums could eat three or 4 completely different plant species throughout a foraging journey, not like another arboreal marsupial, because of the koala and the better glider, which concentrate on single species.

The brushtail possum’s rounded molars can not reduce Eucalyptus leaves as finely as more specialized feeders. They are more tailored to crushing their meals, which allows them to chew fruit or herbs more successfully.

The brushtail possums’ caecum lacks inside ridges and can’t separate coarse and positive particles as effectively as another arboreal marsupial. The brushtail possum can not depend on Eucalyptus alone to supply ample protein. Its more generalized and blended diet, nonetheless, does present enough nitrogen.

Trichosurus vulpecula sometimes eats leaves, shoots, and flowers. Researchers have famous its great capacity to adapt to quite a lot of dietary assets together with a lot of extremely poisonous flowers and leaves.

Throughout most of its range, it prefers to feed on Eucalyptus flowers, however, will eat from quite a lot of numerous bushes and shrubs. In addition, it eats clovers, grasses, backyard fruits, and turnips.

Common Brushtail Possum Behavior

Trichosurus vulpecula is an arboreal, nocturnal animal.

During the day it rests in hollowed-out logs or bushes, however, in more city areas, it finds shelter wherever it could possibly, together with within peoples’ attics.

Typically solitary species, Trichosurus vulpecula populations are so plentiful that many individuals’ house ranges overlap. They mark their territories utilizing each anal secretions and secretions from the scent gland on their chests.

Although they don’t dwell in teams, clear dominance hierarchies have been noticed the place co-dominants of the identical sex purposely keep away from each other.

There seems to be little or no direct aggression amongst people. Trichosurus vulpecula makes use of deep, guttural vocalizations each to speak territory location and to draw mates through the breeding season.

The common brushtail possum is basically arboreal and nocturnal. It has a principally solitary life-style, and people maintain their distance with scent markings (urinating) and vocalizations.

They often make their dens in natural locations reminiscent of tree hollows and caves, but in addition use areas within the roofs of homes. While they generally share dens, brushtails usually sleep in separate dens.

Individuals from New Zealand use many more den sites than those from Australia. Brushtail possums compete with one another and different animals for den areas, and this contributes to their mortality.

This is probably going one more reason why brushtail possum inhabitants densities are smaller in Australia than in New Zealand. Brushtail possums are often not aggressive in direction of one another and often simply stare with erect ears. They vocalize with clicks, grunts, hisses, alarm chatters, guttural coughs, and screeching.

Common Brushtail Possum Reproduction

The common brushtail possum can breed at any time of the year, however, breeding tends to peak in spring, from September to November, and in autumn, from March to May, in some areas.

Mating is promiscuous and random; some males can sire a number of younger in a season, whereas over half sire none. In one Queensland inhabitants, males apparently need a month of consorting with females before they will mate with them. Females have a gestation interval of 16–18 days, after which they provide start to single younger.

A new child brushtail possum is only one.5 cm long and weighs solely 2 g. As normal for marsupials, the new child could climb, unaided, by means of the feminine’s fur and into the pouch and fasten to a teat.

The younger develops and stays contained in the mom’s pouch for an additional 4–5 months. When older, the younger is left within the den or rides on its mom’s back till it’s 7–9 months old.

Females attain sexual maturity when they’re a year old, and males achieve this at the end of their second year. Brushtail possums can dwell as much as 13 years within the wild.

Common Brushtail Possum

Females younger have a higher survival price than their male counterparts on account of establishing their house ranges nearer to their moms, whereas males travel farther seeking new nesting sites, encountering established territories from which they might be forcibly ejected.

In the Orongorongo inhabitants, feminine younger have been discovered to proceed to affiliate with their moms after weaning, and a few inherit the prime den sites.

A possible competitor exists between moms and daughters for dens, and daughters could also be excluded from a den occupied by the mom. In forests with shortages of den sites, females apparently produce more sons, which don’t compete instantly for den sites, whereas in forests with plentiful den sites, feminine younger is better in quantity.

Brushtail possum exhibiting exudative dermatitis, a situation that usually outcomes from stress related to overcrowding, notably in younger males making an attempt to say territory.

Common Brushtail Possum Conservation

Although as soon as hunted extensively for his or her fur in Australia, Trichosurus vulpecula is now protected. In Tasmania, this species is partially protected, however, there’s an annual looking season.

In addition, landowners in Tasmania can acquire Crop Protection Permits to be able to assist control the injury performed by these agricultural pests. Trichosurus vulpecula has thrived extensively in New Zealand, the place it was launched.

There are not any restrictions on looking at this species in New Zealand, and even with the hundreds of animals that might be killed every year, the inhabitants don’t appear to be declining.

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