Honey Possum: Tarsipedidae
Behavior And Reproduction
Because they require a large amount of energy to keep warm, honey possums spend most of their time in search of food. They are nocturnal, which means they are most active at night, and sleep during the day. Honey possums live alone and sleep in holes of trees or nests that birds have abandoned. While the flowers from which they eat pollen or nectar bloom most of the year, sometimes there is a scarcity of food. During this time, honey possums often gather in large groups and curl up together. They become inactive, as if they are hibernating. Their heart rate slows and their body temperature drops in order to conserve energy. When more food is available, the honey possums become active again.
To get from flower to flower, honey possums run quickly along the sandy ground and climb very skillfully up branches in order to reach the blossoms. They use their long tails to grasp branches in case they lose their balance. Often they hang upside down in order to reach a flower. Once they have reached the flower, they use their front toes to pull it apart and then push their snout inside. Their long tongues can extend far into the flower and scrape out the pollen inside.
Honey possums are marsupial mammals, which means that they do not have a well-developed placenta. The placenta is an organ that allows the mother to share food and oxygen with developing offspring in her uterus (womb) during pregnancy. As a result, their young are born underdeveloped and need to continue to grow in their mother's pouch for some time after birth before they can survive in the outside world.
Honey possums live only for a year or two, but they reproduce almost continuously. After only six months, both male and female honey possums are able to produce offspring. After about a two-month pregnancy, the mother gives birth. The newborns then spend another two months inside her pouch attached to one of her four nipples. At birth, the young weigh only 0.00002 ounces (0.0005 grams), and they are the smallest of all known mammals. Inside the pouch they grow to 0.09 ounces (2.5 grams). Their eyes open, and they grow hair.
The mother usually mates shortly after the litter (a group of young born at the same time) is born and enters her pouch. Because of this, she is able to give birth to another litter as the first litter is leaving her pouch. After a litter leaves the pouch, they spend a week or two following their mother around and even riding on her back. They are then ready to leave and begin looking for food on their own. A female will usually give birth to two litters, or eight young, but she will not often live long enough to give birth to a third litter.
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