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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Species Fact Profile: Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii)

Tasmanian Devil
Sarcophilus harrisii (Boitard, 1841)

Range: Tasmania
Habitat: Open Woodland, Eucalyptus Forests
Diet: Carrion, Small Vertebrates, Invertebrates
Social Grouping: Solitary
Reproduction: Mate January through February, highly promiscuous.  Up to 20 joeys born, but usually a maximum of four will survive due to limited number of teats.  Young emerge from pouch at five months old.  They are weaned and independent at 10 months, sexually mature at two years/.
Lifespan: 5-6 Years (Wild)
Conservation Status: IUCN Endangered

  • Body length 52-80 centimeters, tail length 23-30 centimeters, weight up to 18 kilograms - largest of the living carnivorous marsupials.  Males slightly larger than females
  • Black fur, often with white markings on shoulders, chest, or rump.  Broad head with powerful jaws, sloping hindquarters resembling those of a hyena
  • Nocturnal, spending days denning up in hollow logs or burrows
  • Primarily solitary, but will congregate in large numbers around a carcass, resulting in noisy displays in order to establish dominance, feeding rights
  • Common name bestowed by European settlers due to the chilling screams that the animals give at night while fighting over carcasses
  • Tails are used to store fat; healthy devils will have fat tails.  Beneath the tail are the anal scent glands, used to mark territories
  • While currently found only on Tasmania, it historically occurred on the Australian mainland; it was presumably driven to extinction there by competition with the introduced dingo
  • Historically persecuted as a threat to livestock.  Now legally protected, but threatened by a new, fatal cancer, as well as competition with introduced foxes, road kills
  • Best known in many countries from "Taz" the character from Looney Tunes cartoons

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