Philander mondolfii

Geographic Range

Philander mondolfii, Mondolfi's four-eyed opossum, is found in two apparently discrete geographic areas. One area encompasses both slopes of the Cordillera de Mérida in western Venezuela down to the easter slopes of the Cordillera Oriental in central Colombia. The second area is bounded by the Orinoco River on the north and the Guiana Shield on the south in far eastern Venezuela. The second population is also expected in adjacent Guyana and northwestern Brazil. (Lew, et al., 2006; Patton and da Silva, 2007)


Philander mondolfii occupies rainforests and nonflooded riparian forests in foothill regions 50-800 m in elevation. It has been found in upland forests with semideciduous and evergreen plants 15-25 m in height, lowland tree savannas with scattered trees, and lowland, partially flooded, evergreen forests with trees 30-40 m in height. (Lew, et al., 2006; Patton and da Silva, 2007)

  • Range elevation
    50 to 800 m
    164.04 to 2624.67 ft

Physical Description

Like all species of the genus Philander, this species has lighter spots above the eyes, giving the appearance of “four eyes.” It also has a slim body and a relatively large head with a long, conical-shaped muzzle. All species in this genus also have slim, partially furred prehensile tails that are equal to or longer than the body length. Individuals have opposable pollex on the forefeet and opposable hallux on the hindfeet. Females have fully developed pouches. (Hershkovitz, 1997; Nowak, 2005)

Philander mondolfii is average-sized for the genus Philander with a total tail and body length of 503-543 mm, tail length of 265-290 mm, and weight of approximately 260 g. It has a shorter, broader skull than others in its genus. It has short, wooly fur that is pale gray on the dorsum and pale cream-colored on the venter. The hair on the back of the head and around the eyes is dark brown, and the supraorbital spots and cheeks are cream-colored, giving a mask-like appearance. Its ears are relatively large and cream-colored, with dark markings on the outer distal edges and sparse yellow-tipped hairs at the posterior base. The tail is furred by short hairs up to 20% from the base and unpigmented up to 35% from the end. (Lew, et al., 2006; Patton and da Silva, 2007)

  • Average mass
    260 g
    9.16 oz


Little is known about the reproductive behavior of P. mondolfii, but this species was once classified under Philander opossum, which has been studied more extensively. Philander opossum has a year-round breeding season, but successful reproduction depends on food availability, so young are found mostly in the wet season. Females can have up to three litters in one year, each ranging between 1-7 young and averaging 3.4-4.24 young. Philander opossum individuals weigh approximately 9 g at birth and 50-75 g at weaning. The period between litters averages 90 days, and the ovarian cycle is interrupted by lactation, but not gestation. Weaning occurs at day 76 after birth, on average. Female P. opossum reach sexual maturity at 5-8 months in the wild and 15 months in captivity. (D'Andrea, et al., 1994; Hershkovitz, 1997; Nowak, 2005)

Few studies have been performed on P. mondolfii parental investment, but Philander opossum young stay in the nest 8-15 days post-weaning, and after this period the female is indifferent or aggressive to her young. (Hershkovitz, 1997)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female


Little is known about the lifespan of P. mondolfii, but the average lifespan of Philander opossum is 2.5 years in the wild and 3.5 years in captivity. (Hershkovitz, 1997)


Species of the genus Philander are agile, quick opossums that are good climbers and swimmers, although they are mostly terrestrial. They are nocturnal and solitary. They act aggressively when threatened, and will open their mouths, hiss, and fight in response to threats. Little is known about nest building in this species, but a closely related species, Philander opossum, builds its nests on the ground, in burrows, or in low branches. (Hershkovitz, 1997; Nowak, 2005)

Home Range

Little information is known about the home range of P. mondolfii, but P. opossum individuals are non-territorial, have home ranges that overlap, and 137-191 P. opossum can be found in one km^2. Philander opossum individuals also migrate and will stay in one area for less than a year. (Hershkovitz, 1997)

Communication and Perception

Although little is known about P. mondolfii communication and perception, it is known that the closely related P. opossum uses at least three sounds to communicate: a clicking sound, a hiss when threatened, and a squeak, which may be used as a mating call by females. The eyes, ears, nasal turbinates (thin bones that support olfactory epithelium), and tactile hairs are well developed in this species (as in other opossums), so vision, hearing, and touch are probably important senses. Which of these senses is actually used for communication is unknown. (Hershkovitz, 1997)

Food Habits

Few studies exist on the feeding habits of P. mondolfii, but species in the genus Philander are omnivores, consuming small mammals, birds and their eggs, reptiles, amphibians, insects, freshwater crustaceans, snails, earthworms, fruits, and carrion. (Nowak, 2005)


There are no known predators of P. mondolfii, but, like the closely related Philander opossum, it is most likely preyed upon by wild felids, wild mustelids, foxes, large owls, and large snakes. In fact, remains of P. opossum have been found in the feces of the viper Bothrops asper. Opossums of the species P. opossum are also occasionally consumed by humans in Guyana, and P. mondolfii could also be a food source for humans. (Hershkovitz, 1997; Voss, 2013)

Ecosystem Roles

Species in the genus Philander have been known to host many endoparasites including viruses, protozoans, fungi, roundworms (Nematoda), flukes (Trematoda), and tapeworms (Cestoda) and ectoparasites including lice (Mallophaga), fleas (Siphonaptera), mites, ticks, and chiggers (Acarina). Philander species are also a known reservoir for Trapanosoma cruzi, which causes trypanosomiasis in humans and animals. (Hershkovitz, 1997)

In addition, since Philander species consume fruits, are mostly terrestrial, and move often, they are potential dispersers of seeds. One study by Medellin (1994) did find that the closely related Philander opossum does disperse seeds of Cecropia obtusifolia, a tree species important in succession of forests, into adequate germination sites such as light gaps, which other arboreal frugivores do not reach. (Medellín, 1994)

Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • Nematoda
  • Trematoda
  • Cestoda
  • Mallophaga
  • Siphonaptera
  • Acarina
  • Trapanosoma cruzi

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

It is unlikely that this species is of any positive economic importance for humans.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Philander mondolfii is unlikely to have a negative economic impact, but Philander species are a known reservoir for Trapanosoma cruzi, which causes trypanosomiasis in humans and animals. (Hershkovitz, 1997)

Conservation Status

Philander mondolfii is considered a species of least concern by IUCN Red List because of its wide distribution, expected large population sizes, its presence in areas uninhabited by humans and protected areas, and its tolerance of habitat alterations. However, its habitat in foothill areas is currently being deforested, which may lead to the decline or extinction of some populations. (Lew, et al., 2011)

Other Comments

All species in the genus Philander were long considered subspecies of Philander opossum, including Philander mondolfii. Thus, current species-specific research on P. mondolfii focuses on morphological and genetic differences between this species and the others in its genus, and most older information is classified under P. opposum. Little information currently exists that differentiates P. mondolfii from P. opossum in behavior, reproduction, feeding habits, and habitat selection. (Lew, et al., 2006)


Rachel Cable (author), Animal Diversity Web Staff.



living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

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.


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.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


active during the night


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.


Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).


lives alone


Living on the ground.


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.


D'Andrea, P., R. Cerqueira, E. Hingst. 1994. Age estimation of the Gray Four Eyed Opossum, Philander opossum. Mammalia, 58/2: 283-291.

Hershkovitz, P. 1997. Composition of the family Didelphidae Gray, 1821 (Didelphoidea: Marsupalia), with a review of the morphology and behavior of the included four-eyed pouched opossums of the genus Philander Tiedmann, 1808. Fieldiana: Zoology, 86: 1-103.

Lew, D., E. Gutiérrez, R. Pérez-Hernandez, M. López Fuster, J. Ventura. 2011. "Philander mondolfii" (On-line). IUCN 2012: The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed April 02, 2013 at

Lew, D., R. Pérez-Hernández, J. Ventura. 2006. Two New Species of Philander (Didelphimorphia, Didelphidae) from Northern South America. Journal of Mammalogy, 87/2: 224-237.

Medellín, R. 1994. Seed Dispersal of Cecropia obtusifolia by Two Species of Opossums in the Selva Lacandona, Chiapas, Mexico. Biotropica, 26/4: 400-407.

Nowak, R. 2005. Walker's Marsupials of the World. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Patton, J., M. da Silva. 1997. Definition of species of pouched four-eyed opossums (Didelphidae, Philander). Journal of Mammalogy, 78/1: 90-102.

Patton, J., M. da Silva. 2007. Genus Philander Brisson, 1762. Pp. 27-35 in A Gardner, ed. Mammals of South America. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Voss, R. 2013. Opossums (Mammalia: Didelphidae) in the diets of Neotropical pitvipers (Serpentes: Crotalinae): Evidence for alternative coevolutionary outcomes?. Toxicon, 66: 1-6.