Brown-eared woolly opossum
|Brown-eared Woolly Opossum|
|Brown-eared woolly opossum range|
Brown-eared woolly opossums are strongly arboreal marsupials, of similar size to other opossums. They can be distinguished from other members of the genus Caluromys by their colouration and by the extent of fur on the tail. They also differ from other opossums in having a comparatively large braincase.
Adults range from 20 to 32 centimetres (7.9 to 12.6 in) in head-body length, with a long tail of 33 to 45 centimetres (13 to 18 in), and weigh between 310 and 520 grams (11 and 18 oz). Their fur is long, thick, and soft and is reddish to pale brown over most of the body. The colour fades to orange on the shoulders and limbs, and to yellowish on the underparts. The head has a short snout, and is predominantly covered in grey fur, with an orange patch on the crown, and a narrow black stripe running down the midline from between the ears to the tip of the nose.
The feet are reddish or grey in colour, with well-developed claws and gripping pads. The long tail is prehensile, and only covered in fur for part of its length; the terminal portion is covered in pale yellowish skin with brown mottling. Unlike those of the closely related bare-tailed woolly opossum, the pouches of the brown-eared species open to the front, rather than along the midline.
The tail is heavy in more than half of its extension.[clarification needed]
Distribution and habitat
Brown-eared woolly opossums inhabit a range of forest types across northern and central South America, at elevations of up to 2,600 metres (8,500 ft). They can be found in dense rain forest, in fragmented or secondary forest, and in mangrove and xerophytic forests, and even in the more densely wooded parts of the cerrado and pantanal.
As of 2006, four subspecies were recognised:
- Caluromys lanatus lanatus - eastern Paraguay, southern Brazil
- Caluromys lanatus cicur - eastern Colombia, western Venezuela
- Caluromys lanatus ochropus - western Brazil, basins of the Orinoco and Amazon Rivers
- Caluromys lanatus ornatus - Peru and Ecuador west of the Andes
Two additional subspecies, C. l. nattereri and C. l. vitalinus, are sometimes recognised, but have been considered to be junior synonyms of C. l. lanatus and C. l. ochropus, respectively, by other authors.
Biology and behaviour
Brown-eared woolly opossums are omnivorous and feed on fruits, nectar, invertebrates and small vertebrates. By feeding on nectar, the species has been reported to help pollinate Pseudobombax flowers, among others. They are nocturnal, and generally silent and solitary, although they have occasionally been seen foraging in pairs.
Brown-eared woolly opossums differ from other opossums in having a smaller litter size. They are thought to breed throughout the year, and give birth to litters of one to four young; the female only develops a pouch while carrying young.
- Costa, L., Astua de Moraes, D., Brito, S., Soriano, P., Lew, D. & Delgado, C. (2008). Caluromys lanatus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 28 December 2008. Database entry includes justification for why this species is of least concern
- Cáceres, N.C. and Carmignotto, A.P. (2006). "Caluromys lanatus". Mammalian Species: Number 803: pp. 1–6. doi:10.1644/803.1.
- Gardner, A. L. (2005). "Order Didelphimorphia". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
- Casella, J. & Cáceres, N.C. (2006). "Diet of four small mammal species from Atlantic forest patches in south Brazil". Neotropical Biology and Conservation 1 (1): 5–11.
- Gribel, R. (1988). "Visits of Caluromys lanatus (Didelphidae) to flowers of Pseudobombax tomentosum (Bombacaceae): a probable case of pollination by marsupials in central Brazil". Biotropica 20 (4): 344–347.
- John F. Eisenberg and Kent H. Redford, 2000. Mammals of Neotropics: Ecuador, Bolivia and Brazil.