Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges
Tropical North Queensland, Australia.
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Rainforest Possums
Coppery Brushtail Possum
Trichosurus vulpecular johnstonii
Green Ringtail Possum
Pseudocheirus archeri
Herbert River Ringtail Possum
Pseudocheirus herbertensis
Lemuroid Ringtail Possum
Hemibelideus lumuroides
Striped Possum
Dactylopsila trivirgata
Sugar Glider
Petaurus breviceps
Research Report: 
Marsupials In The Mist, Declining Mountain Top Refuge


  • The name 'possum' is a fairly vague and not very scientific term.

  • Other than both being marsupials, the Australian/New Guinea 'Possums' are not closely related to the Neotropical 'Opossums'.

  • And in fact, within Australia, the term 'Possum' actually covers a few quite different families of animals.

  • Although in various groups, there are a few characteristics that unite the different Australasian possums, although these are often consequences of ecology than a reflection of relatedness.

  • All possums are quite arboreal, and many have a strong, usually furry tail with a naked patch of skin underneath which assists with grip (Egerton 1996).

Script: Courtesy of  Damon Ramsey BSc.(Zool) Biologist Guide

'Ringtail Possums' Family Pseudocheiridae

  • Ringtails are not quite as wide ranging in their diet as other possums.

  • They may feed on fruits and flowers, but generally the bulk of their diet is leaves (Egerton 1997).

  • This results in 'ringtails' being more sluggish and appearing rather 'dopey', although many are capable of energetic leaps within the canopy.

  • They are also usually quieter than many other possums; and this is reflected in their smaller ears.

  • However, they are excellent climbers with strongly prehensile tails (Strahan and Cayley 1995).

  • They are more of a closed forest possum than the 'gliding possums' and the occasionally terrestrial 'brushtails'.

  •  The highest species diversity of this family on the continent is found in the tropical rainforests.
    Script: Courtesy of  Damon Ramsey BSc.(Zool) Biologist Guide

'Wrist-winged Gliders' Family Petauridae

This group of gliders is usually grey or brown in colour, with a bushy tail and a darkish stripe on the back that often extends to the forehead (Strahan 1998). They are referred to as the ‘wrist–winged gliders’, as most have a loose flap of skin between the wrist and ankle on the same side. This appears as a loose fold of skin when climbing, but when jumping from tree to tree the skin is stretched and acts as a gliding surface. They have been reported to glide up to 100 meters (Egerton 1997).

Gliders use their sharp lower incisors to chew into trees and then lick the resulting sap and gum (Egerton 1997). This is especially so in winter (Strahan 1998) when their other foods such as insects and other invertebrates, are rare. They also nibble and suck on fruit and flower nectar.

Being nocturnal, their sense of small is important. In the more sociable species, they use scent trails to identify other individuals of the same species (Strahan 1998).
Script: Courtesy of  Damon Ramsey BSc.(Zool) Biologist Guide

Common Brushtail Possum: (Trichosurus vulpecula)

  • The Brushtail possum is the size of a large cat with large pointy ears and a black, slightly bushy tail which is furred to the tip, although naked underneath at the end.

  • It is able to curl its tail, to some extent, around branches.

  • Its body is grey with a creamy coloured belly.

  • It is often vocal, chattering and screeching.

  • The common brushtail lives in eucalypt woodland, where it feeds on leaves and fruit.

  • It is found right across the savanna region.

  • Its distribution was probably always patchy, possibly preferring woodlands where tree hollows are more plentiful.

  • For example, suitable shelter sites seem to be scarce in Darwin stringybark trees, which dominate woodlands right across the savannas.

  • Patterns of fire and soil fertility may also dictate patchy distributions.

  • On the other hand, common brushtails are fond of semi-urban areas where they often spend their days in tree hollows or in house ceilings.

    Script: Courtesy of of Environmental Protection Agency

Chambers Wildlife Rainforest Lodges
Lake Eacham, Atherton Tablelands
Tropical North Queensland, Australia.
PH & Fax: 07 4095 3754 International: 61 7 4095 3754

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