Mexican mouse opossum

Marmosa mexicana

SUBFAMILY

Didelphinae

TAXONOMY

Marmosa murina mexicana Merriam, 1897, Oaxaca, Mexico.

OTHER COMMON NAMES Spanish: Ratón tlacuache, tacuazín.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Length 4.7-6.7 in (12-17 cm); weight 0.9-3.2 oz (26-92 g). The back is uniformly reddish brown to grayish brown. The tail, which is prehensile, is about as long as the head and body and 90% of its length is naked. The feet and undersides are paler, sometimes white. There are two large black patches surrounding the large, black eyes. The ears are large, rounded, and naked.

DISTRIBUTION

From eastern and southern Mexico south through central America to western Panama, from sea level up to about 5,900 ft (1,800 m).

HABITAT

The main habitat is tropical moist forest, but it can also be found in dry tropical forest, secondary forests and disturbed vegetation, and mangrove forests.

BEHAVIOR

A nocturnal species that is primarily arboreal, although it can also be found on the ground. The mouse opossum readily eats in captivity, quickly attacking and consuming any large insects, eggs, or small vertebrates. It has been found resting inside abandoned hummingbird nests.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Primarily insectivorous but also eats some fruit, bird eggs, and nestlings, and other prey similar in size.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Polygamous. Gestation is about 14 days long. The females do not have a marsupium, so the newborn crawl to the mammae and attach themselves to the nipples, which may number from 11 to 15. As they grow larger, the young begin traveling on the mother's back, sometimes curling their tails around hers. Reproductive season extends at least from March through August.

CONSERVATION STATUS

The species is not listed by the IUCN. Since it is found in both undisturbed and modified habitats, it probably is not facing major conservation problems.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Sometimes these opossums are kept as pets in rural communities. Some individuals have been found as stowaways in banana shipments to New York City. ♦

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