There is a great deal of confusion regarding the animal known as possums, and this is basically because there are more than 80 species related to the same animal family (Didelphidae).
In the Dominican Republic, there are no possums, but there is a very similar mammal and this is the solenodon, although the solenodon is not very common to see because it is in danger of extinction.
The solenodon tends to be confused with the possums because they have many similarities in their physical characteristics, but they do not belong to the same animal family.
The possum is a marsupial, thousands of years old, the solenodon is an endemic mammal of the Caribbean.
There are other distinguishing characteristics between the possum and the solenodon, for example, the possum has a prehensile tail, the solenodon although it has a tail, it is not prehensile.
In reality, the confusion with the name and characteristics of the animal is much greater, because Possum and Opossum are different animals, although of the same marsupial family.
Possum, opossum, solenodon, and Jutia are four different animals
I must explain the difference between these fours animals that people usually tend to confuse as one.
It is a somewhat confusing subject, the only way I know these facts is because I also write for an animal and pet website and I know quite a bit about it.
Possums and opossums are not the same animals, both animals are marsupials, but Possums are smaller and more closely related to kangaroos.
But this is where the confusion arises: in North America, it is very common, people often confuse opossum for possum when referring to animals that prowl around the backyard at night.
This possum, to which the North Americans refer, does not exist in the Dominican Republic, but it is distributed in different parts of the Americas.
Another major distinguishing difference between the solenodon and the opossum is that the solenodon has a slightly venomous bite, the opossum is harmless.
The possum is an animal that reproduces very easily, while the solenodon, on the other hand, is currently endangered and is extremely rare to see in the Dominican Republic.
The jutia is another mammal endemic to the Dominican Republic that tends to be confused with both the possum and the solenodon.
About Solenodonte in the Dominican Republic
Solenodon is a genus of placental mammals of the order Soricomorpha, the only one of the family Solenodontidae. They are known by the common name solenodon but many rural people know them as “jutia” but this is another animal.
It is an insectivorous animal and is among the strangest mammals in the world.
In the Dominican Republic, there were other species that today are considered extinct, this was the Solenodon marcanoi.
This animal is a true living fossil, whose ancestors’ bones have been found dating back 30 million years. We are dealing with a primitive mammal that was described for science in 1933 by Brandt.
It is endemic to the island of Hispaniola (Dominican Republic and Haiti) and is in vulnerable danger of extinction cataloged by the Nature Union 2008. Its body has a length of about 30 centimeters and 15-25 centimeters of tail.
It is reddish-brown in color with variations up to brownish-brown. Both tail and limbs are naked. Its head is characterized by a long snout like a small trunk, which is very versatile for foraging. The eyes are very small.
With nocturnal habits, it is difficult to observe. It is possible to find it in protected areas such as the Haitises, Jaragua, Bahoruco, Quita espuela, Guaconejo among others.
It feeds mainly on invertebrates but complements its diet with reptiles, birds and fruits, considering it an opportunistic animal.
A peculiar characteristic is the presence of the second incisor on each side of its lower jaw presenting a groove, which is the origin of its Latin name Solenodon, “grooved tooth”.
Until the arrival of the Spaniards, it was the top predator of the island, incorporating it at the top of the food chain so it has not developed methods of defense against other predators such as dogs, cats, ferrets and others that are its main threat along with the loss of habitat.