Because possums are known for playing dead, I thought this would be a good post for April Fool’s Day. But I’m posting this after midday in the UK, so it’s only still appropriate in later timezones than ours. Ah, well.
So, what’s the difference between opossums and possums? Well … there is and there isn’t a difference.
An opossum is an North American marsupial which is from the family Didelphidae and is handily also sometimes known as a possum. The word opossum was borrowed from the Powhatan language in the 1600s.
When Americans or those who knew the opossum first went to Australia, they found there was a similar-looking BUT NOT THE SAME animal from the Phalangeriformes family, and promptly christened it the possum. Except that it’s sometimes called an opossum.
Here’s the North American type, the opossum (or possum) (both pictures used from Wikipedia on creatives commons licences):
and here’s the Australasian variant, the possum (or opossum):