Tasmanian Devil

Video highlights from Animal Encounters

Now extinct on Australia's mainland, the Tasmanian Devil is a very interesting creature!

Tasmanian Devil
Scientific name: Sarcophilus harrisii

Facts:    

•    The Tasmanian devil is nocturnal (active after dark). During the day it usually hides in a den, or dense bush. It roams considerable distances - up to 16 km - along well-defined trails in search of food.

•    The Tasmanian devil is mainly a scavenger and feeds on whatever is available. Powerful jaws and teeth enable it to completely devour its prey - bones, fur and all. Wallabies, and various small mammals and birds, are eaten - either as carrion or prey. Reptiles, amphibians, insects and even sea squirts have been found in the stomachs of wild devils.

•    Dens are typically underground burrows (such as old wombat burrows), dense riparian vegetation, thick grass tussocks and caves. Adults are thought to remain faithful to their dens for life so den disturbance is destabilizing to populations.

•    The Tasmanian devil is the world's largest carnivorous marsupial, reaching 76 cm in length and weighing up to 12 kilograms.

•    Listed as Endangered as standardized surveys indicate that the global Tasmanian Devil population has declined by more than 60% in the last 10 years. Research indicates that an invariably fatal infectious cancer, Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), is responsible for the decline.

•    Devil Facial Tumour Disease causes cancers to appear first in and around the mouth before spreading down the neck and, sometimes, into the rest of the body. Both male and female adults are more commonly affected than juveniles. Sick devils also become emaciated, because the tumors interfere with eating, and many mothers lose their young. The animals can die within six months of the appearance of the first sores, and in some areas whole populations have been wiped out within 18 months.
 

Discuss this article

Newsletter

Never miss a Nat Geo moment

Your email address
Submit