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jerry jackson
Photographed by Bette Jackson

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Source: Opossums 1

Length of Segment: 00:01:15

Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. The life of a Virginia opossum is a pretty short one, but long enough to keep the species going. The average opossum lives less than two years, but they mature quickly and can produce up to thirteen young when they are less than a year old, followed by another litter within about three months. Although eighteen or more young may be born, no more than thirteen can survive because females have only thirteen nipples: twelve arranged in a circle, and the thirteenth in the center of that circle. The average opossum brood, however, includes only six to nine young. The nipples are within the female’s pouch, and at birth, the young must crawl through the mother's fur to reach the pouch. It's a race for life. If the nipples are all taken, a baby is out of luck. Once a newborn opossum grabs hold of a nipple, it swells in the baby's mouth so that it can't let go, forming a fixed pipeline of nourishment until the baby is mature enough to hang on for the ride. Baby opossums spend more than two months in their mother's pouch and may spend another three to four weeks clinging to her fur or tail, returning occasionally to the pouch for a snack before they become independent.

'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.

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