Tasmanian Devil

Category: Wildlife

Made popular by the Looney Tunes cartoon character, the Tasmanian devil is the largest carnivorous marsupial alive today, although it is only about as big a small dog. Despite its size, it is known as a tenacious and aggressive animal, which earned it the name of “Devil”.

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil

Scientific & Common Names

Class: Mammalia
Infraclass: Marsupialia
Order: Dasyuromorpha

Family: Dasyuridae

Genus: Sarcophilus

Species: S. harrisii

Common Names: Tasmanian Devil

Characteristics

Tasmanian devils are mostly black, with a white V-shaped marking on their chest. They are thickly built, with large heads and stocky tails that store fat. Tasmanian devils have sharp teeth, and a mouth that can open a full 75 to 80 degrees. Their biteforce is extremely powerful and helps them crunch bones and rip meat from their food.

Breeding

Gestation lasts just 21 days. Like with many marsupials, the young are born underdeveloped and make their way to their mother’s pouch, where they will live for another 100 days. After leaving the pouch, pups will stay with their mother for another three months before going off on their own.

Behavior

Adult Tasmanian devils are solitary, nocturnal animals, meaning they live alone and hunt at night. While they spend much of their time alone, recent research has revealed that large, disconnected groups of devils are actually part of a large social network that infrequently interact with one another.

Tasmanian devils are fierce and tenacious, able to take prey much larger than themselves, although they prefer to scavenge on carrion. They are known to eat the entire prey animal, including fur and bones.

History

Tasmanian devils were once found on mainland Australia, but today they are isolated to the island which gives them their name, Tasmania, as well as some of the smaller islands nearby.

The Tasmanian devil officially became the largest carnivorous marsupial after the extinction of the Thylacine, also known as the Tasmanian tiger or Tasmanian wolf. The last Thylacine is believed to have died in 1936. Tasmanian devils are distantly related to the extinct Tasmanian tiger.

Present Status

Tasmanian devils are endangered. Their range is restricted to a small area, and they are susceptible to disease including Devil Facial Tumor Disease. They have also been hunted due to the belief that they kill livestock, and are sometimes struck by cars.