Animal-World > Small Animal Pets > Short Tailed Opossums

Short Tailed Opossum

Family: Didelphidae Picture of "Kisak" and "Suki-da", two Short Tailed Opossums"Kisak" and "Suki-da"Monodelphis domesticaPhoto Animal-World: Courtesy Robin White
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We have had a STO for two weeks. She's been great, active, eating great. Yesterday she just didn't look right. She seemed lethargic and really wasn't really able to... (more)  Lori Ferraro

   Not only is the exotic Short Tailed Opossum very small, but it has a curious and easy-going nature... they are becoming quite a popular "pocket pet"!

  Short Tailed Opossums, also referred to as STO's, are small and very cute. They make unique and fascinating pets. If handled at an early age they are easy to tame and become very friendly. They usually do not bite and are very easy to keep., you can even train them to use a litter box. They are solitary animals however, and should be kept singly as they tend to fight with other opossums when they reach maturity.

  Because of their nature and uniqueness, the Short Tailed Opossums make excellent pets. They are quiet, active, and inquisitive, and since opossums are not rodents they generally don't gnaw on things. A special bonus to keeping a Short Tailed Opossum, they will eat unwelcome pests such as insects and rodents. Because of this they are sometimes referred to as "House Opossums". They are generally nocturnal, getting active at dusk which is great for people who have the evening hours to interact with their pet. If they are awakened during the day though, they will venture out and be social.

   The Short Tailed Opossum belongs to the order marsupialia. Unlike many marsupials, the Short Tailed Opossum does not have a pouch. They have a unique adaptation in caring for their young. New born babies will latch onto a nipple on their mother's stomach which then enlarges and holds the babies securely in place.

   There are a variety of marsupials including such creatures as kangaroos, Sugar Gliders, Wombats, Ringtail Possums, and Tasmanian Devils.

For information about Small Animals and their care visit:
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Geographic Distribution
Monodelphis domestica
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Data provided by GBIF.org
  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Didelphimorphia
  • Family: Didelphidae
  • Genus: Monodelphis
  • Species: domestica
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Scientific Name: Monodelphis domestica

Background:   The Short-Tail Opossum is found mainly in Brazil and adjoining countries of Bolivia, Paraguay, and Chile and there are 17 different species. The Monodelphis domestica, described here, was imported into the United States from Brazil in 1978 by the National Zoo and introduced into the pet market in 1994. Brazil has now closed their borders to exportation, so those available for pets are all bred in captivity.
  In their native countries they live close to humans and are frequently found living in houses. Natives call them "cachita" and consider them to be good luck. They readily welcome them as they have a great appetite for unwanted pests such as insects, rodents, and even scorpions.

Note: Opossums are NOT the same thing as possums. "Opossums" range from North America to southern Argentina and contain 15 genera with over 60 species. "Possums" are found in Australia with over 20 species. They are both marsupials, but are actually only distantly related within the same subclass.

Description:    A mature Short Tailed Opossum will reach a body length of about 4" - 6" (10 - 15 cm) with a tail that is about 1 1/2" - 3" (4 - 7.5 cm) and will weigh between 2 - 5 ozs (60 - 150 g). The males are about 25% larger than the females.
   The fur is a thick velvety gray-brown on top with a lighter tone underneath. They have a hairless prehensile tail used to grasp and balance while climbing. It is also great for carrying nesting materials and other things, but it is not weight bearing. They have a muzzle quite like a rat, with very sharp teeth. Their ears are large, very thin skinned, and sensitive to sound and their eyes bulge out giving them good night vision. The front legs are shorter than the hind legs. They have a life span of about 4 to 8 years.
   Babies are born premature, pink, and hairless. They are helpless, latching on to a nipple on their mothers stomach where they will stay until they are further developed.

Environment:   The Short Tailed Opossum is an escape artist, and must be kept in a secure enclosure. A 10 gallon or larger aquarium with a secure lid or a narrow-mess wire cage work well. Provide corn cob, Care Fresh litter, or shavings (though not cedar) for bedding and a nest box with some nesting materials such as cotton or shredded paper.
   For exercise and entertainment they will need things to climb on such as branches, ropes, or parrot ladders, and you can also give them a small hamster wheel. For some fun you can include such things as clay flowerpots, pvc tubes, and other places for them to hide. They need a draft free warm environment. Keep the temperature between 68° - 88° F. and at least a 50% humidity, a little on the warmer side is best for mothers with babies.
   They are neat clean little critters and will usually pick a corner of their enclosure for a bathroom. They can even be trained to use a litter-box, which makes cage cleaning much easier. Short Tailed Opossums are basically odor-free and their cage only needs to be cleaned about once a week.

Care and feeding:    Provide your Short Tailed Opossum with fresh water daily in a water bottle. For younger opossums that are not too strong, one without a steel ball works best.
    In the wild they eat insects, fruits, and vegetable matter. You can provide them a similar diet by offering mealworms, crickets, pinkie mice, fruits, vegetables, and breads.
   You can also offer them a high quality cat food, other dry foods such as a ferret food, or a commercially developed food called Briskey's Short Tail Possum feed. Supplement these by offering treats of crickets or mealworms a couple times a week as well as small amounts of fruits and vegetables.
  Other treats can include such things as super worms, hard boiled egg, scrambled egg, tuna, canned cat food, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Fresh fruits need to be cut up into small pieces so they can pick them up easily. Some quick and easy fruit options are the small Mott's Applesauce; Mixed Berry, Strawberry, or Tropical Blend fruit cups; or baby foods.

Social Behaviors:    A Short Tailed Opossum can become a friendly docile pet that can easily be handled by people and is curious, active, and entertaining.
   Because they are naturally solitary animals, they should be housed individually. The only time they should be put together with other opossums is when they are being bred, and then for only a short time. Cage mates will eventually become aggressive toward one another, possibly killing each other. Young opossums should be housed separately by the time they reach 9 weeks of age.

Dr. Jungle says..."What inquisitive little critters you are!"
"Kisak" and "Suki-da" are exploring!

   "Needless to say, every Short Tailed Opossum is different. They are a lot like humans in that sense. You can't base them on a group or how a group acts. Each one has its own distinct little personality.
   "Maybe someday I'll breed them and have their little kiddos running about, for now though... it's just all about Suki-da and Kisak. My worlds cutest little short tailed opossums"....Robin

See more cute picturesof
Kisak and suki-da
.
Plus Robin shares lots of good information on caring for Short Tailed Opossums!

Photo Courtesy: Robin White

Handling and Training:     If handled from a young age, a Short Tailed Opossum can become a loving gentle pet that generally will not bite. A good age to acquire your pet is between 3 and 4 months of age, though even some adults will adjust to being handled. They are friendly and inquisitive. Both males and females make equally good pets.

Activities - Exercise and Play:    The Short Tailed Opossum is nocturnal, meaning it is active at night. Be sure to give it lots of things to climb and perch on, such as branches, parrot ladders, and ropes. They will also enjoy a hamster wheel to run on.

 

Breeding/Reproduction:    Short Tailed possums are sexually mature at about 4 to 5 months of age. They will breed in any season, and can have up to 4 litters a year. When you introduce a pair, only keep them together for about 12 days.
   The gestation period is about two weeks and the female will have a litter size of up to about 13 babies. Unlike most marsupials, the female does not have a pouch so the new born babies, pink and hairless, will firmly attach themselves to a nipple on their mother's stomach. The mother will spend the majority of her time in the nest. At about 4 weeks of age, they young will begin to wander about the nest. They will cling to the fur on their mothers back and ride around with her when ever she leaves the nest. They will be weaned at about 8 weeks of age.
   Sometimes there can be up to 16 babies, but when the mother only has 13 nipples, babies that did not attach will not survive. Also, if a baby becomes detached, the nipple is enlarged and the baby will be unable to re-attach.

Ailments/Treatments:    Short Tail Opossums are very hardy little creatures. However, if not taken care of properly they can become ill. Most ailments are preventable simply from taking proper care of the animal. One reported health problem that can occasionally occur is a prolapse. You can treat your pet with ivermectin twice a year to help prevent this, but be sure to check with you veterinarian for this and any other illnesses.

Availability/Purchasing your Short Tailed Opossum:    Find a reputable breeder or retailer to purchase from. It is best to get one that is fairly young - between 3 and 4 months of age.
   One thing to take into consideration before you decide to purchase your Short Tailed Opossum is does your veterinarian treat exotic pets? Not all vets do, so you might want to check and make sure that there is a vet in your area that will treat your pet in case he gets sick.

Author: Clarice Brough
Lastest Animal Stories on Short Tailed Opossums


Lori Ferraro - 2016-01-09
We have had a STO for two weeks. She's been great, active, eating great. Yesterday she just didn't look right. She seemed lethargic and really wasn't really able to walk. She's been eating and drinking great, pooping. She ended up having one small episode of bloody stool and we found her dead this morning. Any ideas? We are beyond devastated.

  • S-TO - 2019-05-17
    Why would you let an "incident of bloody stool" go, without taking it seriously?

    Small animals do not have bloody stool, as a matter of course.

    Most animals do not, but it is very important to not ignore something like blood coming out of any orifice of an an animal as small as a STO.

    It could be any of a number of things, that's why you need to take your STO to an exotic animals veterinarian, immediately, when something like this happens. It could have been a blockage, it could have been a rupture inside, if you have young kids with access to it, they may have hurt it somehow by squeezing or dropping it, and then put it back into the cage, etc.

    PLEASE dont take these kinds of symptoms lightly. STOs are fragile and time is of the essence when they show a disturbing symptom like this. I'd feel as badly as you say you do if I ignored my STO when it had a symptom like this, knowing it died a miserable death over the hours that I could have taken it into a vet to be seen. Even if you couldnt help it, euthanasia is kinder than letting an animal suffer in pain for hours.
  • S-TO - 2019-05-17
    Again, this goes for all animals, big AND small:
    If they are suddenly lethargic, cant walk or have bloody stools, these are ALL individually reasons to get them to a vet, immediately. If they are having them ALL at once, dont ignore it-- DO IT.

    Animals arent like humans. They don't have 'off' days. If they are showing distress, it is VERY SERIOUS. Wild animals, like STOS or any birds, etc, especially will try to hide a problem. So if youre seeing a problem, it is beyond serious, and they need to be seen by a professional, STAT.
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Allison - 2015-05-10
I recently bought a STO and on the second day of owning her I tried the bathroom trick to have a more confined space to try and hold her. Well, she jumped down and found the smallest hole under my sink and is now loose inside of my wall. I have placed her food and her cage in thebathroom in hopes she will come out. Anyone have anymore ideas for me.

  • Clarice Brough - 2015-05-11
    Hopefully she will come out to eat, and as she gets more comfortable you may be able to catch her again.
  • jake - 2016-01-30
    Either a 5gallon bucket or trash can with favorite food at bottom and some object close they can climb on to get in but can't climb out. Or I catch mine with large plastic mixing bowl and food tied to a stick to prop it up trick.
  • S-TO - 2019-05-17
    Keep an open jar of baby food -chicken or turkey is good- out for her in front of where she left, and on every level of your house , and also a small dish of water. Leave her cage open and on the floor, so she may return to it. Set up a surveillance with video if you can, at night. Keep nightlights on every floor, and wait around dawn and dusk to see if it comes out. KEEP any other animals out of the room, and generally keep an eye on them all the time, also, so they dont get to the STO before you.

    You have to get looking for the STO , immediately, because if they can dehydrate in a matter of 48-72 hrs, with no food and water.

    The one time that mine escaped, she had found a tear in the lining underneath the couch and was hanging out in it like a little hammock.

    You can also walk through your house and in your basement or crawlspace and see if you can hear them moving through the ductwork, or any noises from them. Watch your animals, if you have them, are they hanging around a certain area, listening to something? The STO might be near. If you have a dog, put it on a leash and walk it around the house, basement, etc, and just be silent, and watch to see if it hears something, looks to an area or turns its ears up or toward an area.
    I have a scent dog as opposed to a sight dog, so I took a sock from the STO's cage (which she liked to sleep in), held it in front of my dog's nose and said the STO's name; I did it 3x and then I said, "Where is (STO)?? Go get (STO)!" And of course she just turned her head toward the couch, and took a couple steps toward it. My dog knew she was there the whole time we had been in the room, but she was ignoring her (she was jealous of her).

    When it comes to the registers and duct work, you can stick a long piece of rope or tie some yarn together, or a long strip of fabric, and let it hang down into it, tied to the register or something, so that the STO can get a grip good enough to climb out of a smooth or vertical duct.

    If youre putting out a bucket for the STO, make sure its not too short or flimsy, or some STOs could just knock it over.

    Please do NOT put out any contraptions that falls down or springs shut!
    Your STO is tiny and delicate, and can get injured horribly by them! They have tiny vulnerable little fingers, as well, and eyes that get injured.
    I've never seen a store bought animal trap that was gentle enough to catch an STO, and most of them just work like garbage, in general.
  • S-TO - 2019-05-17
    If you use the scent trick I did with my dog, obviously do not let them actually "go get" the STO. You can put the dog on a leash, first. It can then lead you to where the STO is, but you can prevent it from actually getting to the STO.

    This trick may not work with every scent dog, but mine was a working dog breed.
    If you dont have a dog ( you can try it with a non-scent dog, too), you can borrow one from a friend, family member or neighbor, if you are able to handle the dog and it cant break from your grip of the leash.
  • S-TO - 2019-05-17
    Please do not bond with your STO in the bathroom. There are human fecal germs in every bathroom that spray out in a fine mist when you flush the toilet, and they can harm an animal -espcially a small one- that is walking around on the floors and surfaces of a bathroom. STOS are tiny, and their hands and feet also go in their mouths as they clean thmselves, and they clean themselves quite a lot. Any traces of bathroom cleaner can get on them, also, and that is toxic. Don't make your STO ill or poison them, please.

    If you want to bond with your STO, first, understand that isnt going to happen over night, They are wild animals and afraid of humans. It's going to take time. As in weeks, probably.

    Make sure their housing is in calm place and they feel secure. You might feed them some 'gourmet' crickets from a can (they love then), or small pet food grade worms, like wax worms (do not use wild caught insects because of potential pesticide poisoning). Dont take the STO out of its home or sleeping area to feed it. Let it feel secure and safe. If you pick it up, it will not feel secure or safe, period. Natural predators that are way smaller than a human pick them up to eat them, and they get scared with you when you do that, just the same.

    Over time, if you are respecting them, they will feel safer with you, and you can coax them out to feed them.

    Do NOT get food on your fingers and then put them by the STO. They have bad eyesight, and may bite your finger by mistake, thinking that it is food because it smells like food.

    After they have built up a solid sense of trust with you, another way to bond with them, is to allow them to stay in a sock or soft slipper, while you hold them on your lap. You can use a bonding pouch or use the sock or slipper, etc. Whatever is soft an comfortable for the STO. Dont fuss with them, allow them to settle and feel comfortable. They may even start to come out and look around, or climb on you.

    Be warned: The WILL pe on you. Actually pee & poop, as they have cloacas and both come out at the same time. This is also something they won't tell you, when you go to buy a STO. They are wiild animals and they will act like wild animals. It is nto something they grow out of, or that you can or should even try to train them out of. If you want an STO, get used to being peed and pooped on, nearly every time they are on you (or n your couch, bed, etc. ) It is gross, but that it who it is; they didnt ask to be a pet. They use this behavior a scent marking their territory, in the wild. IF they are ON YOU, then YOU are their territory.

    Another way to bond, when they are very secure with you, is to let them snuggle down into the top of your shirt. If they are done exercising and exploring, the will settle down and clean themselves and then fall asleep.
    Be careful that you do not fall asleep, either, though, or you will kill or cripple it, rolling over, etc. And of course do not forget it is there. If it's on your upper chest just under your sternum, you can keep your eye on them there.
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Angela Johnson - 2013-05-28
Hello everyone, i am a proud owner of a sto, for short, whose name is benny, jr. We have had him for a few months and he is so sweet and friendly, but, and i say but in caps for a reason;are you ready? He eats his own poop! ! It is so completely nasty and i have caught him already a few times doing it. I provide him with the special food they recommended at the exotic pet shop where we bought him- but why is he doing this? What makes it worse is that he gets it on his little 'fingers' and flings it about his home,(a fish aquarium. ) he makes such a mess and it is just so gross because then we don't want to handle him after seeing it stuck to his feet! ! Anyone have this problem?

  • Anonymous - 2013-05-28
    I have seen this with dogs. I don't know of any absolute cures, but I've seen products for dogs that may help. There is a discussion here and products here . I can't attest to how well any of them work (thank goodness I've not had to deal with this problem myself)
  • Laurel - 2014-11-30
    Some animals do eat their poop. Such as bunnies and guinea pigs. Maybe your animal does too.
  • Makenzie - 2015-12-20
    Dont worry my STO does it too!
  • S-TO - 2019-05-17
    If you have a STSO and it's eating it's feces, then there is a Problem, capital P. These are pretty fastidious animals, and eating its feces probably indicates something wrong with the nutrition or food that it's getting.
    Is the feces wet, like diarrhea? It could be sicker than just nutritional problems.

    You need to get it to an exotic vet, and bring your store bought food you bought for it, so they can see the food and nutritional info on the bag.

    The urine and feces your STO makes should be removed at least once a day, more like 2 or 3 times in 24 hrs. The cage should be cleaned weekly and wiped down with a vinegar-water solution.

    How big is the cage or habitat your STO is living in? If its too small, or he has no mental stimulation, then this is obviously bad. From wht I've seen, most people stick these poor creatures in homes that are WAY TOO SMALL for them. They need plenty of space to roam and things to climb and do. If you were stuck in a tiny space, you might try to fling your feces away from yourself, too. Any animal put into too small a space with start showing abnormal behavior, humans included. People in solitary confinement go nuts too, and fling their feces around, if they are in there long enough.
  • S-TO - 2019-05-17
    Also, PLEASE DO NOT GIVE YOUR STO ANY PRODUCTS MEANT FOR OTHER ANIMALS, like the advice above about dg products.

    STOS are marsupials > opossums.

    They have NOTHING to do with dogs! Or rodents or any other animals.
    NEVER use products meant for another species.

    The very FIRST thing you should be doing, with ANY animal that eats it's feces, is take it to the veterinarian. They can determine if it's due to a deficiency in its nutrition or behavioral, or whatever else it may be.
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jake - 2016-01-30
My sto seems to be not as energetic lately. Ive had him coming up on 2 weeks and I'm wondering if Hes eating too much? I can't find anything on how often to feed them. I've been leaving food in his cage and giving maybe 3 superworms every other day. But I want to regulate his food intake and see if that's the problem.

  • Melissa - 2016-11-17
    Try feeding it Friskies dry cat food. They love it. I have 4 of them that I feed everynight and they are doing great. Find a small cat bowl and place it where he can get to and just what he needs. It seems to be their favorite.
  • S-TO - 2019-05-17
    If your STO is lethargic, then there is a problem and you need to take it to an exotic vet. Do not wait.

    STOs need a lot of exercising, they can run up to 9 miles a night, in the wild. EVERY STO NEEDS AN EXERCISE WHEEL, PERIOD. One that allows them to run on it without bending it's back any. One without a bar along the outside of it, because it can fall off and injure itself.

    If your STO is not using the wheel, then something is seriously wrong.

    Have you been checking its water bowl to amke sure its drinking water? They can get dehydrated very fast. You should be giving them clean water every day.

    Water bottles that have a tube sometimes get clogged and then the STO can't get water --that's why you need to change the water once a day and check out that the water is getting out, EVERY TIME. An STO can die of dehydration very fast. Look at his skin underneath the fur, is it wrinkly? That can indicate dehydration. IF you have a water bottle in their cage or habitat, then also keep a small bowl filled with water, too (make sure it is too heavy for them to tip over).

    Your STO could be lethargic for one of any of a thousand reasons, so get it to the vet, ASAP.
  • S-TO - 2019-05-17
    Friskies is also not a diet an STO should be on. Or an actual cat. Terrible food.
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Lisa Pretsch - 2015-10-06
I raise these fun little critters and I'am having a hard time getting the word out there that I have young ones for sale. Any suggestions?  Thanks

  • Mary - 2015-10-21
    Dear Lisa,
    I am looking to get a STO for my other half for Christmas. I would like to be able to drive to meet and bring home our little one, so could you please let me know where you are located? We are in PA and would not mind traveling out of state, up to a point. :) Thanks!
  • grace - 2015-11-22
    where are you located ? I am in new york.
  • Lisa Pretsch - 2015-11-28
    Hello, I couldn't find the site again so Im so sorry it took me this long to get back to you. I live in Wisconsinl
  • Karma - 2015-12-06
    Hi! What type of baby squirrels do you have for sale. I live in Illinois, and would really be interested. Were they bred in captivity? Age of babies? I've rescued and raised them before. Thanks! How much are you asking for them?

    Karma
  • Sally - 2017-02-23
    I would be interested in your STOs. Do you still breed them? My husband and I have been wanting to get one but can't find any in our area. What part of WI are you in? We're in MN.
  • DANIELLE - 2017-03-06
    Hi i am interested in buying a baby and i live in wisconsin also. . . Please email me @ daniellen5505@gmail. Com asap and ill let you know where i am and see where we can meet
  • S-TO - 2019-05-16
    Short-tailed Opossums are wild animals, not domesticated.

    They are shy and can bite as fast, or faster, than a snake when they are scared. And they are very near-sighted, so even your hand WILL frighten them. You WILL get bit, and bit hard enough to draw blood. Most probably more than once.

    They are NOT SOCIAL animals. They are also known as excellent escape artists. They WILL escape sooner or later, due to owner inexperience or simple mistake.

    And if they do, they can die of dehydration in 48-72hrs. They can fall down a vent and get stuck in your duct work and die.

    If you have a cat or dog, ferret, rat, bird, they will most likely kill them before you even notice they've escaped. They do make a soft noise that your other animals will hear, before you do.

    Brazil, where they come from mostly, did the right thing, and prevented these animals from being exported out, to keep them out of the pet trade, shortly after releasing them for scientific study. They aren't meant to be pets.

    Stop exploiting this defenseless little animal by breeding and selling them for profit.

    I came by mine when idiots with 5 kids, and 3 big dogs were going to throw her out. They cannot survive cold weather and the tons of predators outdoors, both wild and domestic.

    There isn't much known about S-TOs. There are hardly any research papers written about them, even. Exotic vets don't even have a lot of knowledge about them. They are not easy to take care of. They need warm tems and a high humidity, but not too warm or high. You've got to make sure they are getting the right nutrition, or the will suffer.

    Stick to the small rodent family of pets where there is a ton of information out there on them and their care, and leave these poor creatures alone.
  • S-TO - 2019-05-17
    NEVER listen to someone who is breeding an animal for profit.

    The money they can get out of you, usually with lies, is ALL that they care about. Not the health of the animal they bred. Not if the people who want to buy the animal are able, or want to, care for it, properly.
    ALL they care about is getting your money.

    STO's are not "fun." They are non-domesticated animals that do NOT want to be your pet, and they will act accordingly. When I took in my STO, she was scared and hissed and bit me for weeks, because the family who had her treated her roughly. The breeder who gave her to a family with a house full of kids under 10, and three dogs, didn't care if she died horribly at their hands or paws.

    And they didn't tell them that a STO's urine & feces smells HORRIBLE. Fresh skunk odor is like a field of daisies compared to STO poop.
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debbie overand - 2017-11-10
Would like to purchase stopossum

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Danielle nobles - 2017-02-26
I'm looking for a female if anyone has one for sale I live in lucedale, ma 39452

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Haley - 2016-10-13
Shout out to anyone in Florida, especially those who are close by the Sarasota area! I'm looking for getting a STO sometime!

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