The opossums, also known by their scientific name Didelphimorphia ), make up the largest order of marsupials in the Western Hemisphere, including 103 or more species in 19 genera. They are also commonly called possums, particularly in the southern United States, although that term also refers to Australian animals of the suborder Phalangeriformes. The Virginia opossum was the first animal named an opossum; usage of the name was published in 1610. The word opossum was borrowed from the Virginia Algonquian (Powhatan) language in the form aposoum and ultimately derives from the Proto-Algonquian word *wa˙p- aʔθemw, meaning “white dog” or “white beast/animal”. Their unspecialized biology, flexible diet, and reproductive habits make them successful colonizers and survivors in diverse locations and conditions.
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