Burramyidaepygmy possums

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Pygmy possums are found in Australia and New Guinea. Five species, placed in two genera, are known.

These possums are small animals, ranging from 6 gms to about 80 gms. Besides traits from their diprotodont heritage, characteristics of burramyids include a conical head with short muzzle, large eyes, and short rounded ears. Their tail is long, slender, and prehensile. They have an opposable hallux on their hind feet, and their pelage is soft, thick, and wooly. Burramyids are diprotodont, with dental formula 3/2, 1/0, 2-3/3, 3-4/3-4. The molars are quadrate and have low, smooth cusps ( bunodont). The third upper premolar is bladelike or plagiaulacoid.

Their well-developed pouches open anteriorly, like those of most other marsupials. Newly fertilized eggs go through a period of embryonic diapause, a common trait among diprotodonts.

Burramyids are mostly insectivorous, but also feed on nectar and sometimes lizards. They are nocturnal, and arboreal or scansorial in habit. Burramys parvus, which lives at high elevations, is the only marsupial known to undergo extensive periods of hibernation.

Literature and references cited

Feldhamer, G. A., L. C. Drickamer, S. H. Vessey, and J. F. Merritt. 1999. Mammalogy. Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. WCB McGraw-Hill, Boston. xii+563pp.

Marshall, L. G. 1984. Monotremes and marsupials. Pp 59-115 in Anderson, S. and J. Knox Jones, eds, Orders and Families of Recent Mammals of the World. John Wiley and Sons, NY. xii+686 pp.

Strahan, R. (ed.). 1995. Mammals of Australia. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 756 pp.

Vaughan, T. A. 1986. Mammalogy. Third Edition. Saunders College Publishing, Fort Worth. vi+576 pp.

Vaughan, T. A., J. M. Ryan, N. J. Czaplewski. 2000. Mammalogy. Fourth Edition. Saunders College Publishing, Philadelphia. vii+565pp.

Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder. 1993. Mammal Species of the World, A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. 2nd edition. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington. xviii+1206 pp.

Contributors

Phil Myers (author), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

tactile

uses touch to communicate