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Photo: Evelyn D. Harrison (Shutterstock) Possums look like scraggly, ratty creatures—or at least that’s what I used to think. You see them trundling across roads at nighttime, sharp-toothed bundles of fur with a long naked tail trailing behind. But one day, I visited a museum that had pelts of dozens of different animals in a hands-on display. Some were soft, some had coarse guard hairs, and then I petted the possum fur almost as a joke. Like, how bad is this going to feel. It was heavenly . Possum fur remains, to this day, the softest fur I have ever touched. I say all this not to praise the virtues of the poor misunderstood possum, although there are many. I say it to point out that, as a resident of North America who is quite familiar with this animal, I call it a possum. So does everybody else. You don’t say to your neighbor “ugh, my dog rolled in with a dead Didelphis virginiana yesterday;” you say, “my dog found a dead possum.” Now that we’ve established that, we have to talk about another animal: the Australian Trichosurus vulpecula , or common brushtail possum. Both possums are marsupials, both live in and near cities, and both are commonly called, well, possums. So what’s an opossum? The name possum is a shortened version of opossum, and the word opossum comes from a Virginia Algonquian word that was written by colonizers as apossoun or opassom , according to Merriam-Webster . (The […]