Tasmanian Devil

Sarcophilus harrisii

Head - Body: Males:
50-65 cm
Tail Length: Males:
Status: Endangered
Description: The devil is about the size of a medium sized dog and is the largest living member of about 55 species of pouched meat-eaters called marsupial carnivores (dasyurids). They have powerful jaws and sharp teeth for tearing flesh. They have thick black fur with a distinctive white patch on the throat and various others on the shoulder, rump and tail. The ears are pink and without fur on the side. Their body has a stocky, thickset build. The head is broad and heavy, the limbs are short and the tail is stumpy and rigid
Habitat: Once occurred across much of Australia but are now found only in Tasmania in coastal scrub and eucalypt forest.
Life Cycle:
Breeding Season: March - April
Gestation: 18 - 24 days (Av 21 days )
Litter Size: 1 - 4
Sexual Maturity: 2 years, however females can breed at 15 months
Longevity: 7 - 8 years

The sex's pair up for about 2 weeks before mating and the female stays in the den during this time. Females have backward opening pouches with 4 teats. She has up to as many as 30 – 40 young (smaller than the size of a grain of rice), but usually only 2 to 4 make it to the pouch and attach themselves to a teat. The young spend approximately 15 weeks in mum's pouch and when they are too big for the pouch she will leave them in a nest and return to feed them. They are weaned at 37 to 40 weeks, when she decides not to return to them. Males only breed until four years of age. Three out of four devils die in the first year.
Diet: This carnivorous marsupial is mainly a carrion feeder, but will sometimes take live prey such as birds, poultry, reptiles, frogs, fish and insects. It not only eats the soft flesh of victims but also swallows fur, feathers and large bones, which it crunches easily with its sharp teeth and powerful jaws. When food is plentiful it stores large quantities of fat beneath its fur.
Facts: They're nocturnal and solitary, but not territorial and they spend their day sleeping under ground cover or in deserted burrows, hollow logs or caves. Much of their night is taken up by scenting the air for the smell of fresh blood or rotting meat, and following the scent to its source. They may forage over an area of 4sq km in search of food. When several devils try to commandeer the same carcass is the time squabbles tend to break out and you'd hear lots of growls, spits and hissing. Loud, raucous yells are used in aggression or when frightened.
Threats: Devil Facial Tumour Disease describes a fatal condition in devils, which is characterised by the appearance of facial cancers. The tumours or cancers are first noticed in and around the mouth as small lesions or lumps. These develop into large tumours around the face and neck and sometimes even in other parts of the body.

Since the discovery of DFTD in 1996, Tasmanian devil numbers have plummeted. Only 10-20% of the original population survives in the wild. Infection means certain death for the devil – but only after a horrific illness. Starvation, dehydration and the breakdown of vital organs kills the devil within six months of them contracting DFTD

The DNA in the tumour is different to the animals DNA and can be linked back to a single female animal.
Other Facts: Up to 600 years ago the Tasmanian devil still existed on mainland Australia. Its disappearance, like that of the thylacine on the mainland, is linked to the arrival of the dingo.

Their naked ears turn red if agitated.

The whiskers on their face and front legs allow it to feel its way in the dark.

Can climb trees – young devils are more agile and can take birds from nests.

They will consume large carcasses alone or in-groups of up to 6.

Can run 13km/hr and will travel up to 16km between dusk and dawn.

Much of its reputation as a sheep-killer is based on its having been seen eating sheep that died from natural causes.

They manipulate food with their forepaws.

This species' sperm cell is four times larger than that of a man, and is nearly visible to the naked eye.

The Tasmanian devil earned its name from its fierce appearance and its reputation for being ferocious. But it is, in fact, not a good killer and prefers to scavenge for food.

The smallest marsupial carnivore is the long-tailed planigale, found in inland eastern Australia, weighing 4g (0.14oz) – making it the smallest of all marsupials and one of the world's smallest mammals.