The Tasmanian devil is a carnivorous marsupial of the family Dasyuridae. The size of a small dog, the Tasmanian devil became the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world, following the extinction of the thylacine in 1936. It is related to quolls, and distantly related to thylacine. It is characterized by its stocky and muscular build, black fur, pungent odor, extremely loud and disturbing screech, keen sense of smell, and ferocity when feeding. The Tasmanian devil is so called by the early European settlers due to its overall black coloration, bad temper, and terrifying screeching sounds it emits. And indeed, this marsupial often has aggressive behavior and is commonly known for its spine-chilling calls. Moreover, this animal has extremely strong jaws and teeth, allowing it to totally destroy its meal, including bones and fur.
Nocturnality is an animal behavior characterized by being active during the night and sleeping during the day. The common adjective is "nocturnal",...
Crepuscular animals are those that are active primarily during twilight (that is, the periods of dawn and dusk). This is distinguished from diurnal...
A carnivore meaning 'meat eater' is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of a...
Scavengers are animals that consume dead organisms that have died from causes other than predation or have been killed by other predators. While sc...
Terrestrial animals are animals that live predominantly or entirely on land (e.g., cats, ants, snails), as compared with aquatic animals, which liv...
Altricial animals are those species whose newly hatched or born young are relatively immobile. They lack hair or down, are not able to obtain food ...
Among animals, viviparity is the development of the embryo inside the body of the parent. The term 'viviparity' and its adjective form 'viviparous'...
Arboreal locomotion is the locomotion of animals in trees. In habitats in which trees are present, animals have evolved to move in them. Some anima...
A territory is a sociographical area that which an animal consistently defends against the conspecific competition (or, occasionally, against anima...
Ambush predators are carnivorous animals that capture or trap prey by stealth, luring, or by (typically instinctive) strategies utilizing an elemen...
An apex predator, also known as a top predator, is a predator at the top of a food chain and has no natural predators. These animals usually occup...
Pursuit predation is a form of predation in which predators actively give chase to their prey, either solitarily or as a group. Pursuit predators r...
Polygynandry is a mating system in which both males and females have multiple mating partners during a breeding season.
NoNot a migrant
Animals that do not make seasonal movements and stay in their native home ranges all year round are called not migrants or residents.
The Tasmanian devil has a squat, thick build, with a large head and a tail that is about half its body length. Unusually for a marsupial, its forelegs are slightly longer than its hind legs, and devils can run up to 13 km/h (8.1 mph) for short distances. The fur is usually black, often with irregular white patches on the chest and rump (although approximately 16% of wild devils do not have white patches). These markings suggest that the devil is most active at dawn and dusk, and they are thought to draw biting attacks toward less important areas of the body, as fighting between devils often leads to a concentration of scars in that region. Tasmanian devils have five long toes on their forefeet, four pointing to the front and one coming out from the side, which gives the devil the ability to hold food. The hind feet have four toes, and the devils have non-retractable claws.
The original range of this species covered much of mainland Australia. Presently, the Tasmanian devil is endemic exclusively to Tasmania, where it inhabits a wide variety of habitats. The preferred habitats, however, are dry eucalypt forests, open woodlands, shrubland as well as agricultural lands.
Tasmanian devils are usually solitary, socializing only when feeding and mating. They are known to gather in feeding groups, usually at carrion. When this happens, the animals display highly aggressive behavior, although they are non-territorial. During the daytime hours, they typically sunbathe or shelter in dense bushes or dens, which are either underground burrows or hollow logs. They come out of their dens only during the night in order to feed. Although this clumsy animal moves around with a characteristic loping gait, it's able to travel long distances of up to 16 km per night. They are considered to be non-territorial in general, but females are territorial around their dens. Tasmanian devils possess well-developed senses of hearing, sight, smell, taste, and touch. These animals communicate with each other through a wide variety of vocalizations such as the well-known horrifying screeches and fierce growls. They are also known to use some physical gestures, including yawning and tail-raising.
Tasmanian devils are polygynandrous (promiscuous), which means that both males and females have multiple mates. They usually mate in March, producing offspring in April. The gestation period lasts for 21 days, yielding a litter of 2-3 babies, which climb into the pouch of their mother, living there for the first 4 months of their lives. Then they start coming out of the pouch, moving to the den after a while. Weaning occurs at 5-6 months old, whereas independence is reached by 8 months old. The age of reproductive maturity for this species is 2 years old.
Since 2001, these animals have lost about 60% of their total population because of cancer known as 'devil facial tumor disease' (DFTD). Currently, DFTD occupies more than 60% of the current range of the Tasmanian devil. In some populations, up to 83% of adult individuals are infected by DFTD. On the other hand, these marsupials compete with introduced Red foxes for food, habitat, and den sites. And finally, these Endangered animals are highly threatened by road accidents and persecution by farmers, who consider the Tasmanian devil a pest species.
According to the IUCN Red List, the total population of Tasmanian devils is around 10,000-25,000 mature individuals. Specific populations have been estimated in the following areas: North-Western Tasmania - 3,000 and 12,500 mature individuals; Eastern/South-western Tasmania - 7,000 - 12,500 mature individuals. Overall, Tasmanian devils’ numbers are decreasing today, and currently, these animals are classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List.
The Tasmanian devil is a key predator in its range. In fact, this animal is the second largest native terrestrial predator in the area only to the Tasmanian wolf. The Tasmanian devil can truly be called the 'vacuum cleaner' of its habitat, since the animal generally prefers feeding upon carrion, thus maintaining the health of the local ecosystem.