Monodelphis umbristriatusred three-striped opossum

Geographic Range

Red three-striped opossums (Monodelphis umbristriatus) are native to neotropical regions of South America. They are found in Brazil - more specifically in the states of Goiás and Minas Gerais, where they occupy a range of about 930,000 km^2. There is no information available on how their range has shifted throughout their history. (Pine, 1976)

Habitat

Red three-striped opossums are found in savannahs, tropical rainforests, scrublands, and in areas with low vegetation. (Pavan, 2016)

Physical Description

Red three-striped opossums are distinguished by their three longitudinal stripes on the dorsal side of their pelage. These stripes are faint, dark red, and most prominent on their backs. However, they also extend anteriorly onto the tops of their heads. The pelage surrounding these stripes is reddish brown in color and becomes darker posteriorly. The ears of red three-striped opossums are not heavily pigmented, and their tails are scarcely haired. The ventral side of their pelage is ashier gray in color, with hints of a yellowish beige. Red three-striped opossums have an average total length of 185 mm, with an average tail length of 60 mm. They weigh an average of 45 g. Close relatives of red three-striped opossums possess prehensile tails that assist them with balance and grasping when climbing or carrying nest material. (Pine, 1976)

  • Average mass
    45 g
    1.59 oz
  • Average length
    185 mm
    7.28 in

Reproduction

Nothing is known about the mating system of red three-striped opossums.

There is little information available on the processes of reproduction in red three-striped opossums. However, the following are reproductive characteristics and behaviors of close relatives to red three-striped opossums:

When male and female short-tailed opossums meet, they first exchange signs of aggression in the form of hissing, teeth-baring, biting, and sniffling. Following this exchange, copulation ensues. Gestation of offspring lasts approximately 2 weeks. Short-tailed opossums give birth to 5 to 12 offspring at a time, each weighing about 0.1 g. After birth, newly born offspring climb to the pouches of their mothers, where they receive nourishment from milk for approximately 50 days. After about 70 days, young leave the pouch and either remain on the backs of their mothers or stay in their nests while mothers forage. Weaning begins shortly after young have left the pouch. Opossums become fully independent around 3 to 4 months old and are sexually mature about 2 to 3 months after that. (Gould and McKay, 1998; Smith, et al., 1977)

  • Breeding interval
    Short-tailed opossums breed at any time - up to 4 broods annually.
  • Range number of offspring
    5 to 12
  • Average number of offspring
    9
  • Average gestation period
    2 weeks
  • Average weaning age
    7 weeks
  • Average time to independence
    3-4 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    4-5 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    4-5 months

Following gestation, offspring climb into the pouch of their mother and latch onto a nipple. They receive nutrition from the milk of their mother and warmth from the pouch. After leaving the pouch, they are weaned, and are independent shortly after. (Gould and McKay, 1998)

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

Lifespan/Longevity

There is little information available on the lifespan of red three-striped opossums. Gray short-tailed opossums (Monodelphis domestica), another species of short-tailed opossum in the same genus, are known to live up to 6 years in captivity, but only an average of 2 years in the wild. Gray short-tailed opossums occupy a similar geographic range and habitat as red three-striped opossums, os it is possible that these two species have similar lifespans in the wild. (Smith, et al., 1977)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    2 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    6 years

Behavior

There is little information available on the general behaviors of red three-striped opossums. However, other short-tailed opossums are mainly terrestrial animals that prefer to forage at ground level. It is rarer to see short-tailed opossums climbing trees when compared to other opossum families. Red three-striped opossums are solitary animals who act aggressively towards conspecifics. They are also territorial around sources of food and shelter, but to a lesser extent than other animals. While they do broadcast their presence within an area by marking their surroundings with saliva, many species of opossum are shown to be locally nomadic, without defending any specific territory. Sizes of home territories tend to vary, but they often overlap with those of their conspecifics. (Gould and McKay, 1998; Pavan, 2016)

Communication and Perception

There is little information available on methods of communication in red three-striped opossums. However, close relatives of red three-striped opossums hiss, chirp, or bark. Other species also let out distinctive, metallic voice clicks in the presence of threats or when approached by possible mates. Opossums also use scent for territorial marking or to assess the reproductive condition of females. (Gould and McKay, 1998; Pavan, 2016)

Food Habits

There is little information available on the food habits of red three-striped opossums. However, close relatives are omnivorous, feeding on fruit, small insects, worms, and rodents. Short-tailed opossums prefer to forage at ground level. (Gould and McKay, 1998)

  • Animal Foods
  • mammals
  • insects
  • terrestrial worms
  • Plant Foods
  • fruit

Predation

There is little information available on natural predators of red three-striped opossums. However, larger mammals and birds are likely predators.

Ecosystem Roles

There is no published information on predatory and prey relationships of red three-striped opossums, meaning no direct conclusions can be made on their ecosystem role. Being omnivores, they are likely to have mixed effects on their ecosystem, since they feed on both producers and low-level consumers.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Other closely-related short-tailed opossums are sometimes welcome into human dwellings, as they assist with pest control.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

Other closely related short-tailed opossums invade human settlements in search of food and are sometimes an annoyance to the inhabitants.

Conservation Status

Red three-striped opossums are categorized as vulnerable under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This could be attributed to habitat loss and/or pet trade.

Contributors

Charlie Taing (author), University of Washington, Laura Prugh (editor), University of Washington, Galen Burrell (editor).

Glossary

Neotropical

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

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

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.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

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.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

forest

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

frugivore

an animal that mainly eats fruit

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

motile

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.

omnivore

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

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.

rainforest

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.

sexual

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

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

tropical

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

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

viviparous

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

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year

References

Gould, E., G. McKay. 1998. Opossums. Pp. 1521-1531 in Encyclopedia of Mammals, 2 Edition. San Diego, California: Academic Press.

Lemos, B., M. Weksler, C. Bonvicino. 2000. The taxonomic status of Monodelphis umbristriata (Didelphimorphia : Didelphidae). Mammalia, 64/3: 329-337.

Pavan, S. 2016. Phylogeny, Systematics and Biogeography of Short-Tailed Opossums (Didelphidae: Monodelphis). Accessed May 14, 2019 at https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/54ec/357797e6d5149139cb8b908fbfeaf0f3c6ce.pdf.

Pine, R. 1976. Monodelphis umbristriata (A. de Miranda-Ribeiro) Is a Distinct Species of Opossum. Journal of Mammalogy, 57/4: 785-787.

Smith, K., A. van Nievelt, T. Rowe. 1977. Comparative Rates of Development in Monodelphis and Didelphis. Science, 275/5300: 683-684.