Animals having a prehensile tail can wrap it around a tree branch, holding on while using their feet for other tasks. Prehensile tails are adapted for grasping, and are often used as an extra hand or arm. There are mammals known to hang from their tails, but no animal sleeps that way. Though sometimes seen hanging from trees by their tails, snakes don't sleep that way either.
Opossums are the Only Wild Marsupials in North America
North American opossums, or Virginia opossums, inhabit forested areas from southern Canada through Costa Rica. The only wild marsupials found in North America, opossums live in tree nests or dens. Adult opossums (Didelphia virginiana) are 13 to 20 inches long, and have 10- to 21-inch long tails. Young opossums hang by their tails while freely using their four hand-like feet. Older opossums are unable to hold their body weight with their tails, and therefore can't hang upside down.
Kinkajous Love Sweets
Kinkajous love sweets so much, they're sometimes called sugar bears. Nocturnal mammals, kinkajous (Potos flavus) are related to raccoons. Weighing 4 to 7 pounds, adults can reach up to 22 inches long. Their tails, used for balancing and climbing, are as long as their bodies. Kinkajous are commonly seen hanging from branches by their prehensile tails. They sleep high in the rain forest canopies of Central and South America, wrapping their tails around themselves for warmth.
Binturongs Appear as Part Bear and Part Cat
Binturongs are members of the mongoose family. Sometimes referred to as bearcats, they having sharp claws, coarse black fur and long, white whiskers, looking like a bear and cat crossbreed. Found in Burma, Indochina, Indonesia and the Malayan peninsula, binturongs can weigh up to 45 pounds. Hanging by their long and bushy prehensile tails, the binturongs (Arctictis binturong) reach for their diet of fruit, small animals, eggs and insects. When resting, these tree dwellers will wrap their tails around branches, but their bodies don't hang down.
A Monkey's Length is Mostly Tail
Many primate species have prehensile tails used for holding branches and for balancing themselves while walking. The adult spider monkey's total length can be up to 5 feet long, and his long, slender tail is 60 percent of his length. Spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi) avoid the forest floor, swinging by their tails from tree limb to tree limb. Prehensile-tailed primates don't sleep hanging upside down.
Snakes Hang Over the Water
Snakes are long, slender reptiles covered with overlapping scales. They have no eyelids, external ear holes or legs. Their scientific name is Serpentes, and more than 2,500 species are found worldwide. Snakes vary in size and color by species; some types reach up to 30 feet long. Semiaquatic snakes hang by their tails from branches above water, watching for prey. When prey appears, the snakes jump into the water in pursuit.
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Karen Mihaylo has been a writer since 2009. She has been a professional dog groomer since 1982 and is certified in canine massage therapy. Mihaylo holds an associate degree in human services from Delaware Technical and Community College.