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Tasmanian devil

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Tasmanian devil
Screaming devil.jpg
Scientific Classification

Sarcophilus harrisii

The tasmanian devil is a marsupial species found on the island of Tasmania, and the only surviving member of the genus Sarcophilus. They are about the same size as a small dog, however they are broader and more muscular. They are the largest carnivorous marsupial in the entire world. They are very ferocious eaters whom usually eat alone. Sometimes they eat as a group. When stressed they secrete a very offensive odor. The Tasmanian devil can be recognized by its various screeches and the colors of its fur. The fur is black with white markings on its chest and hind quarters.[1]


The Tasmanian devil is thick-bodied, with a large head and short, stumpy tail. They store fat in their tails; so if a devil is seen with a thin, slender tail then that is usually a sign of being unhealthy. It's front legs are a little bit longer then its back legs, this is unusual for marsupials. Despite their awkward legs and small body they can run an average of 8 miles per hour. The males are typically bigger than the females. The males' bodies are just over 2 feet with a tail of about 10 inches. The females' bodies just under 2 feet with a tail of about the same size as the males. The males weigh about 18 pounds, and the females are a little lighter at about 13 pounds. The average life expectancy of a Tasmanian devil is about 6 years.[2] The Tasmanian devils jaws are very strong, capable of breaking the bones of the animal they are eating. Their teeth continue to grow throughout its entire life. If they get excited their ears will turn a deep reddish-purple.[3]

The Tasmanian Devil has long whiskers around its face and patches on the top of its head. The whiskers help detect prey and other devils when it is dark outside. the ability to hear dominates the rest of the devils senses, however its ability to smell is also very good. Black and white seem to be the prevalent means of vision in the Tasmanian devils, since they hunt at night. This type of vision is great for detecting moving objects, however it makes it hard to see objects that are not moving.[4]


The Tasmanian devils only become fertile once a year. While in heat the female produces multiple ova. The females will mate with more than one male, as long as they are not guarded after mating. 20-30 young are birthed, weighing between 0.18 and 0.24 grams. After the young are born they crawl into the pouch. Once in the pouch the attach to a nipple for the next 100 days or so.[5] Since the mother only has four nipples. only 2 to 3 babies survive, but having four is not uncommon. The babies are carried around in the mothers pouch for 4 months. The young are weaned at 5 or 6 months and then go live alone in the bush by late December. The are able to breed around two years old.[6] When the young are in the pouch the develop rather quickly. The ears are visible at around 15 days. You can see the eyelids and whiskers around day 16 or 17. On day 49 they start growing fur and have an entire coat by day 90. The eye open around the same time the fur is developing. Once they leave the mothers pouch they do not come back. They stay in their den for a few months. The first time they leave the den is mid-winter.[7]


tasmania is the bright red section of land

Scientists know that the devils once lived in Australia due to the wide spread of fossils. Now Tasmanian devils can only be found in Tasmania. It is thought that the devils became extinct from the mainlands of Australia about 600 years ago, by dingos from the aborigines. Devils can be found from the coast to mountains of Tasmania. You can find them in almost anyplace that provides shelter during the day and food during the night, places like the open dry sclerophyll forest, and mixed sclerophyll-rainforest. They tend to feed upon what is ever available. They eat every part of their prey including bones and fur. devils eat wallabies, reptiles, amphibians, insects, and sea squirts. If they live in a farm area they eat the carcasses of sheep or cattle. Since they eat the carcasses of sheep and cattle they remove the food for maggots which in turn reduces the risk of blowfly strike.[8]

Facial Tumour Disease

Devil facial tumour disease causes tumours to form in and around the mouth, this causes them to not be able to eat, and they die from starvation.

The devil facial disease was first noticed in 1955. It has been a major contributor to the death of many of the wild Tasmanian devils. It has destroyed about 20%-50% of the devil population. The devil populations are now being watched closely so this disease doesn't spread. They field monitor by trapping the Tasmanian devils in a certain area so they can check for any signs of the tumor. They continue to monitor the same area several times in order to characterise the spread of the disease over time. Since they started doing this they have noticed that short-term effects can be devastating. Long-term monitors see if the population can recover over a given time after the disease has spread. The field monitors also remove the diseased devils from the wild in order to prevent future outbreaks. This will then allow younger Tasmanian devils to mature and start breeding thus increasing the population.[9]


"Taz", this is a screen shot from the television cartoon Tazmania

The Tasmanian devil was also portrayed as a cartoon character named "Taz". This lovable character was thought up by Robert Mckimson. "Taz" was first featured in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoons in 1954, on an episode called Devil May Hare. He only showed up in five episodes before the studio closed down. "Taz" was brought back in the 1990's thanks to marketing and other television appearances.[10]



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