30+ Interesting Facts About Tasmanian Devils

  1. The Tasmanian devil is a carnivorous marsupial limited to Tasmania. They are present in all parts of Tasmania, including the outskirts of urban areas. However, their favorite habitats are coastal woodlands and Australian bushland.
  2. The Tasmanian devil is the largest living marsupial carnivore. Males are larger than females, having a length and mass of 78 cm (30 in) and 12 kg (26 lb.). They use their strong jaws and long teeth to eat all parts of their varied prey: small mammals, birds, insects, and reptiles. (Source)
  3. The Tasmanian devil has the strongest bite among carnivorous mammals. Its bite force quotient (BFQ) is 181, which is far more than the BFQ of famous carnivores, such as tigers (127), lions (112), and Himalayan black bears (44). (Source)
  4. Adult male devils have large and powerful heads and necks, contributing nearly a quarter of their weight. It assists in achieving a powerful bite and grip.
  5. Unlike most other animals with baby and adult teeth, Tasmanian devils only have a single set of teeth throughout their lives. This feature is present in only a few living and extinct animals and assists in determining the age of animals. (Source)
  6. The favorite food of Tasmanian devils is the carcasses of native mammals. Their sharp teeth and strong jaws enable them to eat all parts of their food, including bones, hairs, feathers, claws, and spikes (of echidnas). Their removal of dead animal carcasses maintains ecosystem health but also causes teeth wear. Captive devils eat similar foods. However, wear and tear in their teeth happens more slowly due to fresh and high-quality carcasses. (Source)
  7. Early Europeans named it “devil” due to its frightening sounds (howls and growls), yawning, lunging, and display of sharp teeth during communal feeding and some other occasions. However, the reason behind many of these behaviors is fear instead of aggression.
  8. According to the latest research, Tasmanian devils and thylacine (Tasmanian tigers), their close relatives, went extinct from mainland Australia at the same time nearly 3,200 years ago. The possible reasons behind their extinction are climate change, hunting by humans, and competition from dingoes. The low diversity and poor genetic health of both these marsupials also played a role in accelerating this process(Source
    Drawing of a Tasmanian devil (above) and a Tasmanian tiger (below)
    Tasmanian devils and tigers vanished simultaneously from Australia

  9. The closest living relatives of Tasmanian devils are quolls and other members of the family dasyurid. Tasmanian devil is the only member of this family that eats carrion.
  10. Tasmanian devils have black fur with white markings on the chest and other body parts. It acts as a camouflage for these nocturnal mammals. However, around 10% of devils are without white markings.
  11. Like other marsupials, Tasmanian devils store excess fat in their tails. The animal uses its tail for communication by changing its position according to its emotional state.
  12. Tasmanian devils are the top predators and scavengers (carrion-eaters) in Tasmania. DFTD (devil facial tumor disease) has considerably reduced the population of devils in many parts of the island in the last two decades. It has impacted negatively on the ecological health of Tasmania. Areas with low devil populations have higher numbers and activity of invasive feral cats. Additionally, the carrion also takes longer to disappear due to less efficient feeding by invasive and other native scavengers. (Source)
  13. Tasmanian devils are generally solitary. However, they usually communicate while feeding on the carcass of a large animal. Devils in an area defecate in a single location known as a latrine. It informs animals about the presence of other devils through unique scent communication.
  14. Tasmanian devils can swim and spend time in water to stay cool in summer. Only their head is above the water while swimming.
  15. Male devils fight for females during the mating season. They also guard their mates aggressively after mating. Otherwise, female devils may mate with other males.
  16. Female devils give birth to 20 or more hairless tiny babies after a gestation period of three weeks. These newborns soon enter the mother’s pouch, which opens backward. However, only a few survive due to four teats in the pouch. The younger ones remain in the pouch for four months and then live in the den for several more months.
  17. Milk from female Tasmanian devils contains peptides that can treat antibiotic-resistant superbugs. This milk assists younger devils to grow stronger in a dirty environment. (Source)
  18. Devils generally use hollow logs, abandoned wombat burrows, or spaces below buildings as burrows. They sometimes steal clothes, towels, and other items from human habitats to fill these dens. They use these dens to hide during the day and mating during the breeding season.
  19. Tasmanian devils initially came close to extinction in the late 1800s when local farmers tried to eradicate them. They feared that devils killed and ate their livestock. This practice ended in 1941 when the government declared devils a protected species in Tasmania.
  20. Research has proved that Tasmanian devils can be a small threat to poultry and newborn lambs, but healthy livestock remains safe. However, they provide a major benefit to bush and farm animals by devouring carcasses of sick and dead animals. This process removes disease-causing maggots.
  21. Tasmanian devils faced the latest challenge to their survival in the mid-1990s due to a rare transmissible cancer: DFTD (devil facial tumor disease). This disease usually spreads when devils bite each other. It produces tumors around the head and mouth of the affected animal and causes death within a few months due to starvation and other complications. This fatal disease reduced the number of devils from over 150,000 in 1996 to less than 30,000 in 2007. After that, the Tasmanian government declared it an endangered species in 2008.
  22. The Australian government and scientists have taken several steps to prevent the extinction of Tasmanian devils. These include developing a vaccine for DFTD, captive breeding programs, quarantining healthy populations, and reintroducing the mammal to mainland Australia.
  23. Scientists reintroduced Tasmanian devils to mainland Australia in 2020. They hope this action can increase the chances for survival of this marsupial. Tasmanian devils can also suppress invasive species (feral cats, common brushtail possums, and red foxes) that can increase the population of native species, such as bandicoots. (Source
    A cat
    Devils reduce population of invasive feral cats

  24. A vital reason for preventing the extinction of Tasmanian devils from DFTD is the development of immune function against this fatal disease. Scientists have found changes in the devil’s genes related to cancer and immune function after the spread of DFTD. Scientists believe these genes can now recognize the cancer and have protected some populations of devils from extinction. (Source)
  25. Road accidents kill nearly 400 Tasmanian devils annually. Devils usually visit roads to eat the carcass of roadkill. They suffer accidents because it is difficult for drivers to see devils with black fur on black road surfaces at night.
  26. Tasmanian devils have a lumbering gait because their rear legs are shorter than their front legs. However, they can run faster than humans on rough terrain.
  27. Tasmanian devils usually live for five years in the wild. Their age in captivity can increase up to eight years.
  28. Tasmanian devils have long whiskers on eyes, muzzle, and other places. These sensitive hairs serve several functions, such as finding prey in the dark and keeping a distance from other devils while feeding together.
  29. Tasmanian devils carry many parasites, including a unique tapeworm only in these marsupials. This tapeworm is a threatened species due to the endangered status of its host.
  30. George Harris was the deputy surveyor of Tasmania from 1803 to 1810. He described Tasmanian devils and several other animals and plants on this island. The scientific name of this animal (Sarcophilus harrisii) means “Harris’s meat lover.”
  31. Large owls, quolls, and birds of prey are natural predators of Tasmanian devils, particularly young devils. Large devils may also eat younger ones, who try to protect them by climbing trees.

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