- Common Name:
- Tasmanian devils
- Scientific Name:
- Sarcophilus harrisii
- Average Life Span In The Wild:
- Up to 5 years
- 20 to 31 inches
- 9 to 26 pounds
Tasmanian devils are the largest carnivorous (meat-eating) marsupials in the world. Tasmanian devils live in Tasmania, a large island just south of Australia. In fact, Tasmania is the only place where they are found in the wild. Adult Tasmanian devils are usually about the size of a small dog. They have coarse brown or black fur and a pudgy appearance that makes them look like baby bears. But don't let their cuteness fool you. They have sharp teeth and strong, muscular jaws that can deliver one of the most powerful bites of any mammal on Earth.
Tasmanian devils are strictly carnivorous, surviving on small prey and frequently feasting on already dead animals, called carrion. The most famous characteristic of the Tasmanian devil, though, is its feisty personality. When threatened, a devil will lunge at its attacker, shriek, howl, bare its teeth, and often spin around in circles like the cartoon Taz. Devils will also display these behaviors when trying to join in as other devils are eating an animal carcass or fighting for a mate.
Tasmanian devils are nocturnal animals, spending their days alone in hollow logs, caves, or burrows, and emerging at night to feed. They use their excellent sense of smell and sight to avoid predators and locate prey and carrion. They are voracious eaters and will consume everything—including hair, organs, and bones.
Like all marsupials, Tasmanian devil mothers give birth to very tiny young (about the size of a raisin). Once born, the babies crawl up the mother's fur and into her pouch.
Tragically, since the mid-1990s, a catastrophic disease has killed thousands of Tasmanian devils. Called devil facial tumor disease (DFTD), this fatal condition is a rare contagious cancer that causes lumps to form around the animal's mouth and head, making it hard for it to eat. Scientists are working hard to find a way to stop the spread of DFTD before it wipes the species out.