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The fossilized jaw of Didelphodon (Wikimedia Commons)


Didelphodon (Greek for "opossum tooth"); pronounced die-DELL-foe-don


Woodlands of North America

Historical Period:

Late Cretaceous (70-65 million years ago)

Size and Weight:

About one foot long and a few pounds


Insects and small animals

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Opossum-like teeth; short, powerful jaws


About Didelphodon:

Throughout the history of life on earth, marsupials have been primarily confined to two continents: Australia (where the vast majority of pouched mammals live today) and prehistoric South America. However, one group of marsupials--the pint-sized opossums--have prospered in North America for tens of millions of years, and are represented today by dozens of species. Didelphodon, which lived in late Cretaceous North America alongside the last of the dinosaurs, is one of the earliest opossum ancestors yet known; as far as we can tell, this Mesozoic mammal wasn't significantly different from its modern descendants, burrowing underground during the day and hunting for insects, snails and possibly the hatchlings of prehistoric turtles at night.

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