Phalanger

PhalangerPhalanger — Phalangeridae is a family of nocturnal marsupials native to Australia and New Guinea, including the cuscuses, brushtail possums, and their close relatives. Considered a type of possum, most species are arboreal, and they inhabit a wide range of forest habitats from alpine woodland to eucalypt forest and tropical jungle.

Phalangerids are relatively large, compared with other possums. The smallest species, the Sulawesi Bear Cuscus, is cat-sized, averaging 34 cm in length, while the largest, the Black-spotted Cuscus is around 70 cm long, and weighs 5 kilograms. Besides the large size, other key features distinguishing phalangerids from other possums include the presence of bare skin on at least part of the tail, and low-crowned molar teeth. They have claws on the forefeet, but none on the hindfeet, although these do have an opposable first toe to help grip onto branches. Additionally, in all but one species, both the first and second digits of the forefeet are opposable. The fur is typically dense or woolly, and may be grey, black, or reddish-brown, often with spots or stripes.

Most phalangerids are folivores, feeding primarily on leaves. Like some similar species, they have a large cecum to ferment this highly fibrous food and extract as much nutrition as possible. However, their teeth are not as highly adapted to this diet as in other possums, and they also eat fruit, and even some invertebrates. The only exception to these general rules is the Ground Cuscus, which is carnivorous, and is also less arboreal than other phalangerid species.

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