Matching letters represent father–offspring pairs, with capital letters representing the location of sires and lowercase letters representing mother–offspring locations, for individuals sampled in northern Indiana, USA in 2007–2008. Sparano, Vin T. 2000. [39] They leave their mother after about four or five months. The clearing of dense forests in these areas and further north by settlers allowed the opossum to move northward. Virginia opossum tracks generally show five finger-like toes in both the fore and hind prints. Reproduction and life cycle Further information: Marsupial § Reproductive system As a marsupial, the female opossum has a reproductive system that includes a bifurcated vagina , a divided uterus and a marsupium , which is her pouch. Around the turn of the 20th century, the opossum was the subject of numerous songs, including "Carve dat Possum," a minstrel song written in 1875 by Sam Lucas[60]. In an attempt to create another icon like the teddy bear, President William Howard Taft was tied to the character Billy Possum. Male opossums are capable of reproducing at ∼8 months of age (Reynolds 1952; Biggers 1966). 1998). Thus, given that sampling occurred during the spring when only individuals ≥10-months old were present within the population, all sampled males were considered as potential fathers. Nonetheless, many species of marsupials clearly exhibit female promiscuity and thus, alternative evolutionary benefits (e.g., increased litter sizes) or proximal behaviors (e.g., sexual coercion) likely exist for promiscuity to be maintained in this group. Our inability to identify most (85%) fathers of sampled litters, coupled with the extensive distances observed between putative father–offspring pairs, suggests that opossums may not maintain explicit home ranges in highly fragmented landscapes. The opossum was once a favorite game animal in the United States, in particular in the southern regions which have a large body of recipes and folklore relating to it. In December 2010, a cross-eyed Virginia opossum in Germany's Leipzig Zoo named Heidi became an international celebrity. For example, if a given mother–offspring array exceeded the computational capacity of GERUD using 10 loci, we systematically excluded the least polymorphic loci until a result was achieved. Our analyses revealed that promiscuity was common among females, with 26 (41%) litters having ≥2 sires. The Virginia opossum is the most commonly known opossum. Why do female Gunnison's prairie dogs copulate with more than one male? Opossums have existed since the Pliocene Epoch, two to five million years ago. They are solitary, nocturnal omnivores. Due to the large size of our study area and logistical constraints of trapping, a number of habitat patches were not sampled which, combined with opossum movements extending beyond the effective area of our trapping grids, likely contributed significantly to the limited number of fathers detected. The 11 loci used in our analyses exhibited high levels of polymorphism (11.18 alleles/locus; range: 7–16), with mean observed and expected heterozygosities of 0.793 and 0.796, respectively. At the Smithsonian's National Zoo, the Virginia opossum eats fish, meat, eggs, pellets, fruits, vegetables and mushrooms. For Virginia opossums it is unknown if alternative benefits explain the development and maintenance of female promiscuity; however, this mating strategy can facilitate increased litter sizes, (Hoogland 1998; Kraaijeveld-Smit, Ward, and Temple-Smith 2002), increased genetic diversity within litters (Madsen et al. 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