The Opossum’s Tail (Its Appearance And Purpose)

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Opossums, as highly adaptive marsupials, have grown quite fond of living close to residential areas. Because of this, it might be that you have already encountered them at least once in your life.

Could it be that, when you saw them, one thing that caught your attention was their tail? If that’s the case, or you’re just completely curious about their tails, continue reading this Floofmania article as we will explore what’s with the opossum’s tail. 

What Does The Opossums Tail Look Like? 

Table of Contents

If you have seen a rat’s tail, an opossum’s tail is similar to that, although relatively larger. Check this table out and see the distinguishing features of an opossum’s tail. 

Size One-third (⅓) the size of their total body length, around eight to thirteen inches
ColorRanges from white and cream to gray
Hair volumeScant, nearly hairless

Are Opossums’ Tails Completely Bald?

No. The opossum’s tail is not completely hairless. If you look closely at the tail, you can see strands of hair that are too thin to notice if you don’t observe it closely. These hairs are light-colored and grow between the patches of epidermal keratin of the opossum’s tail. 

Right, that’s a serious answer to that question, folks. But, do you know that there is this grandmother’s myth about why the opossum’s tail is almost hairless?

According to that myth, opossums once had beautiful fluffy tails. But because a rabbit became so envious of his tail, he sent a cricket to the opossum’s house to shave it off without the opossum knowing! 

Isn’t that interesting? 

An opossum in the night with its long, nearly hairless tail pointig backward as a counter weight.

Do Opossums Have Bones In Their Tails? 

Yes, opossums have bones in their tails. These bones are known as the caudal vertebrae. They have around 26 to 29 of these bones that make up the entire tail.

If you’re interested in what the opossum’s tail bones look like, see this.

How Do Opossums Use Their Tail? 

An opossum’s tail is very useful. Opossums use their tails for a variety of purposes, which include the following: 

  • Climbing and hanging in the trees
  • Carrying materials for their dens, like grass and twigs
  • Keeping balance when they are walking or running
  • Sending signals to other opossums about a possible danger near them

The opossum can voluntarily control its tail to perform certain tasks. Because of its utility, the opossum’s tail is considered by many as the opossum’s fifth hand or limb. 

How Do Opossums Use Their Tails For Carrying Stuff? 

Opossums use their tails to carry materials such as bundles of leaves and twigs, which they will use to line dens.

Before carrying these materials, the opossums will first grab them with their mouths and then transport them through their front legs. Following that, the opossum will curl its tail into a ring, gripping all those items and moving them around.

Can Opossums Really Hang From Trees By Their Tails? 

You have probably seen how a monkey uses its tail to grasp a tree branch to climb and swing through the trees. Opossums do just the same, using their prehensile tails. Their tails provide stability and aid in climbing and hanging.

So yes, opossums can hang from trees using their tails, but only for a short period of time. However, this happens rarely and can only be done by baby opossums. This is because their tail’s muscles aren’t strong enough to support them while hanging. 

Do Opossums Wag Their Tails? 

Wagging of the tail is common among animals like dogs and cats. However, like these animals, opossums also wag their tail, especially when they are trying to send distress signals to other opossums. An opossum’s tail is said to be flexible and can be moved in many directions. 

Aside from wagging, opossums also flag down their tail when they perceive a threat and are playing dead. Once they perceive that danger isn’t around anymore, their tail is the first one to be lifted off the ground, faster than the rest of their bodies.

Why Do Opossums Curl Their Tails?

When transporting materials like leaves or twigs, opossums curl their tails to better grasp and carry the materials. And when they are climbing, they curl their tails to brace themselves and steady their position so that they won’t fall off from the tree or its branch.

Their tail is basically their safety device when climbing. Curling their tail allows them to ensure their safety.

Author: Clarisse Jane Javier

Hello, there! I’m CJ, and I’ve been writing since primary school. I love to write about a variety of topics, from pets to the arts. I have had an endless fascination for animals since I was a kid. Until today, I always looked forward to learning more about the diverse species we have on Earth.

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