ISSN: 0041-3216 (Online), 0041-3216 (Print)
Volume 94 Number 2
Didelphis species, neo-tropical animals with the potential for intensive production: Part 1 Review of taxonomy, natural history, general biology, animal behaviour, and nutrition. (157)
The genus Didelphis contains six species of marsupials that are found only in the Americas. Commonly referred to as opossums, Didelphis species have been widely studied over the years and possess a number of features that make them suitable for semi-intensive production. Rearing any species for production requires a solid knowledge on species biology and behaviour. The following paper is a review of the state of knowledge on Didelphis species and focuses on the natural history, animal behaviour, diet and digestion. It further highlights the gaps of information on this genus. In total over 140 years of documented literature on the species was examined and synthesized. It was found that much is known on the natural history of the genus, except for the neo-tropical species which are yet to be studied. Animal behaviour and digestion were both intensively studied in the 1900s, but focussed almost solely on captive Didelphis virginiana specimens, with limited research on its congeners. Although much work was completed over a wide span of years, there remain a number of areas still requiring investigation, particularly for the neo-tropical species of Didelphis that live in South America and the Caribbean.
Keywords: Didelphis, opossum, Didelphis marsupialis, D. virginiana, neo-tropical marsupials, diet, digestion, natural history, animal behaviour, review