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Recreating Nature Indoors

Ever wonder who made the dioramas in our mammal halls? Read all about the artists who created these wonderful scenes. Learn more >

The Making of a Diorama

The Habitat Views video considers ways of looking at dioramas today, and documents the creation of several new displays. Take a look over on our  YouTube channel >

Field Trips & Travel

Galapagos: May 2010

Discover the Galapagos Islands, Darwin's living laboratory, on this Fellows adventure. Learn more >

Do Dolphins Have Hair?

Our mammal researchers answer this and other questions on our Mammalogy FAQs page.
Learn more >

Mammalogy Contacts

Jorge Velez-Juarbe, Ph.D.
Assistant Curator of Marine Mammals

Jim Dines, Ph.D.
Collections Manager
(213) 763-3400

David Janiger
Curatorial Assistant
(213) 763-3369


Virginia opossum

Didelphis virginiana (Kerr, 1792)

Virginia opossum diorama in the North American Mammal Hall


 Cascade Lake in the Adirondack Mountains of New York

Background artist:


Opossums are nocturnal and can be aggressive when threatened. They use various forms of intimidation to defend themselves but usually play dead when they encounter a more powerful opponent.

Opossums are the only marsupials (pouched mammals) native to the United States. Originally found only south of Pennsylvania, they have expanded into the northeast and Great Plains in historic times. They were introduced to California in 1890 and subsequently spread up the west coast.

Biological Information

Range map for the Virginia opossum


In the eastern part of the United States from central America and Mexico north into southwest Ontario. Introduced to the west coast in 1890


Found in a range of environments but prefer stream banks and swamps


Appear to be extending their geographic range


Omnivorous; insects and carrion with fruits and grains in season

Further information about this species may be found on the Animal Diversity Web page for Virginia opossum.