Morphological diversity in digital skin microstructure of didelphid marsupials

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to investigate how didelphid marsupials have diversified in morphology of their claws and digital pads as they evolved different foraging preferences such as terrestrial, aquatic, and arboreal feeding behaviours. Both arboreal and more terrestrial didelphids have papillary ridges on the digital pads of the fore and hindfoot. In contrast, the papillary ridges on the pedal digital skin of the water opossum Chironectes minimus have been replaced by nonoverlapping, thickened epidermal scales. Chironectes also differs from the other didelphids studied in having finger tips with reduced claws and digital pads that are covered with raised epidermal scales having projecting, finger-like cones arranged radially around the perimeter of each scale. The reduced claws and unusual digit skin microstructure of Chironectes likely improve this animal's ability to recognise and identify live animal prey under water using only its sense of touch.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)683-688
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Anatomy
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 24 2001
Externally publishedYes


  • Chironectes
  • Epidermal ridges
  • Epidermal scales
  • Integument

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Histology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Cell Biology


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