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Possums and Cuscuses: Phalangeridae

Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Ground Cuscus (phalanger Gymnotis): Species AccountsGEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, CUSCUSES POSSUMS AND PEOPLE


Phalangers are found in New Guinea, Australia, Tasmania, the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, and a few other small islands. The common brush-tailed possum was introduced in New Zealand over a century ago and has become an alien (non-native) pest species.


Possums and cuscuses spend their lives in trees. Most live in rainforests. However, the common brush-tailed possum has adapted to life in developed areas. It is often found in suburban gardens and city parks. Sometimes it becomes a pest when it makes its home in buildings by finding openings in the roofline and nesting between the house ceiling and the roof.

Possums and cuscuses are herbivores, eating almost exclusively plants. Some eat mainly leaves, while others eat mainly fruit. The common brush-tailed possum eats a wider variety of foods than most members of this family, adapting its diet to what is abundant in any given area.

Cuscuses are hunted for meat and sometimes fur in New Guinea. Some species, such as the common spotted cuscus, are also sold as pets. Cuscuses play a role in religious beliefs in some parts of Indonesia, and in these areas, they are not eaten. The common brush-tailed possum is considered a pest in many areas. The Telefomin cuscus was not discovered until the late 1980s, and so it is of special interest to scientists.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammals