Meet the Largest Carnivorous Marsupial in the World: 10 Facts About the Tasmanian Devil

Few creatures are as misconstrued as the Tasmanian Devil. For most people, the Tasmanian Devil either sounds like a frightening creature or it will conjure up memories of the Tasmanian Devil cartoon character in Looney Toons. However, the memories that many people have of the cartoon Tasmanian Devil do not paint an accurate picture. In reality, the Tasmanian Devil looks, and acts, quite different.

The Tasmanian Devil is the largest surviving carnivorous marsupial. It is one of Tasmania’s characterizing animals due to its uniqueness. Take a look at the following facts to learn more about the Tasmanian Devil…

  1. Some Quick Look Facts

The Tasmanian Devil’s scientific name is the Sarcophilus harrisii. They are considered an endangered animal and the estimated population of Tasmanian Devils were between 10,000 to 15,000 in 2008. They feed on carrion and are hunters of small amphibians, fish, lizards, insects and small mammals.

  1. Australia Mainland was their Home… Once

Fossils have been found in Australia’s mainland that led researchers to believe that Tasmanian Devils used to thrive on the Australian landscape. However, they faced extinction approximately 400 years ago and can now only be found on the Australian island of Tasmania.

  1. The Planet’s Largest Surviving Carnivorous Marsupial

The Tasmanian devil became the largest carnivorous marsupial in 1936 when the devil’s distant relative, the Tasmanian Tiger (the thylacine), unfortunately became extinct that same year. The Tasmanian Tiger was much larger, almost doubling the Tasmanian devil’s size.

  1. Their Tails Hold Fat

If you see a Tasmanian devil with a large and plump tail, then you know that it is a healthy devil.

  1. They have Big Appetites

The Tasmanian devil can eat nearly half of its body weight in just one single day. In the course of one day, they usually consume about 40% of their body weight. Their diet consists of small birds, fish, snakes, insects, and carrion. When more than one come to feed on a dead carcass, they can start fighting and despite their small size, they can be ferocious little creatures.

What’s more, they seldom waste food. After a Tasmanian devil has found a dead carcass, you will most likely not find anything left behind as they eat every part, including the hair and bones.

  1. Their Habitat

So you already know that Tasmanian devils are located on the Australian island of Tasmania, which is just a little over 35,000 square miles. What you probably did not know is that while they prefer forests and scrubs along the coast, they can be found on just about any part of the island. They like to make a home underneath the rocks, logs or in a dark place like a cave.

  1. They have an Attitude

As soon as the Tasmanian devil will feel challenged or threatened, it will go into what will look like an outburst of rage. They begin to lunge and will start growling while baring their teeth. They are not called a devil for no reason; when provoked the Tasmanian devil has been known to emit ghastly screams, frightening the first European settlers on the island- giving rise to its name ‘devil’. These frightening growls and screams, however, are usually omitted because they are afraid. So, if you are looking at doing a tasmania travel adventure, don’t be too afraid if you come across a ghastly scream in the night.

  1. Their Breeding Habits

Tasmanian devils mate between the months of February and May. Expectant moms will be pregnant for three weeks, 21 days, before giving birth to young Tasmanian devils. While the mother’s pouch can only accommodate a maximum of four young, she usually bears more. This means that the first ones to reach the pouch will be the survivors. However, four surviving young devils is a rarity as research shows that only 2 to 3 young usually survive.

The surviving young remain in the pouch for up to four months. After this, they start to explore the world beyond the safety of mom’s pouch. During this time, they live in a den (cave or hollow log) until they are around the weaned age of five to six months. Usually, the young are on their own by the end of the year and they remain solitary creatures for most of their life. By the end of their second year, they are ready to begin mating.

  1. They are Nocturnal Creatures

The Tasmanian devil likes to forage or hunt for food under the cover of darkness. In the hours of daylight they will find a dark hiding place, usually a hollowed out log, cave or even in thick bushes and shrubs.

They are known to be active creatures and can move up to 16 km while looking for food. While usually a slow and ambling animal, the Tassie devil can run fast when provoked and the younger, more agile devils are even able to climb trees.

  1. They Love to Swim

The fact that most Tassie devils are good swimmers may surprise you. These creatures are known to love the water and can often be found splashing in the shallows. They are able to swim using their front paws and they sometimes dive under the water in the hopes of catching a fish. What’s more, they sometimes even hide stashes of food in water.

Want to know more about these creatures? Check out some extra facts below:

–   Their scientific name, Sarcophilus harrisii, is literally translated to “Harris’s Meat Lover”.

–   They are able to reach a running speed of 24km/h and can run for up to one hour, non-stop.

–   Their growl when confronted (the frightening, ‘otherworldly scream’) is actually a yawn.

–   Their bites are one of the most powerful in the animal kingdom, packing the power of about 544 kg per square inch and they can open their powerful jaw to about 75-80 degrees.

–   The size of a newborn Tassie is about the same as a grain of rice.

 

The Tasmanian devil is only located in Tasmania and no trip to the island will be complete without seeing these fierce little creatures in real life.