Didelphodon (meaning “opossum tooth”) was a small marsupial from the Late Cretaceous period. This primitive, badger-sized mammal had to live in a world that was dominated by the dinosaurs.
Physical appearance and biology
Didelphodon resembled a cross between a Tasmanian devil, a small bear, and a badger. It was a small mammal, being about a 3.3 ft long (1 meter). It had strong teeth specifically designed for crushing bones and shellfish. It also had a great sense of smell and sight.
Behaviour and traits
Didelphodon resided in shallow burrows dug by itself in the forests of North America. It was mostly active at night because there were few predators around at this time. As an endotherm, it needed to eat on a regular basis to produce the energy needed to regulate its body. Didelphodon was an omnivore and ate a variety of foods including small animals, insects, eggs, and even plants. They would also scavenge given the opportunity.
Classification and ancestry
Didelphodon was related to the modern day opossum.
A female Didelphodon was seen at the beginning of the episode sniffing the ground for food. She stumbles upon the Tyrannosaurus nest and tries to dig out the eggs inside. But before she could, the mother Tyrannosaurus arrives and eats her before she could make her escape.
Later, two Didelphodon invade the abandoned Tyrannosaurus nest. They break open one egg but the embryo inside it is dead, having been suffocated to death by the volcanic gas. The two Didelphodon then fight with each other.
A few Didelphodon try to dig out the new nest of the mother Tyrannosaurus, but the mother hears the commotion the little mammals are making and is alerted to their presence. She eats one of the Didelphodon while the others escape.
Two Didelphodon watch hungrily as two Tyrannosaurus chicks feast on a slab of Anatotitan meat that their mother had regurgitated for them.
In the beginning of the chapter a Didelphodon is eating the eggs of an abandoned Tyrannosaurus nest. After he hears the sound of a nearby Ankylosaurus startled by the smell of the eggs, he pokes his head out of the nest to watch the large dinosaurs. When they have finally departed, he then checks for mites, but as he does a male Tyrannosaurus, interested in the nest like he is, consumes the small mammal whole.
When the volcanic eruption occurs in the Blanket Forest, the Didelphodon are the most unaffected of the animals by the disaster. They use it to their advantage by scavenging the silt-covered Anatotitan nests in search of dead hatchlings.
Stock footage of Didelphodon plays in the beginning of the episode.
Behind the scenes
Didelphodon was made to look like a cross between a Tasmanian devil, a small bear, a badger and an opossum. Newer studies indicate that they had a more otter-like appearance.
While the episode utilized it to showcase how Mesozoic mammals were small and living in the shadows of the dinosaurs, the real animal ironically showcased how diverse Cretaceous mammals were, being a specialized aquatic mammal.
List of appearances
- Walking with Dinosaurs
- Walking with Dinosaurs: A Natural History
- Walking with Beasts
- The Complete Guide to Prehistoric Life