10 Facts About The Tasmanian Devil
We are probably familiar with Taz, a cartoon character brought by Warner Brothers through its Looney Tunes series of cartoons however we are probably less knowledgeable about the actual counterpart in the real world from whom the character was based. Here are some facts to reconcile our thinking with the real Taz in the wild, the Tasmanian Devil.
1. The Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) which can only be found in the Australian island of Tasmania is a carnivorous marsupial from the family Dasyuridae.
2. George Harris, a naturalist wrote the first published description of the devil in 1807 giving it the name Didelphis ursina. Richard Owen named it Dasyurus laniarius in 1838 before it was finally named Sarcophilus harrisii or “Harris’s meat-lover” in 1841 by Pierre Boitard.
3. With the extinction of the thylacine in 1936, it holds the title as the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial.
4. It has been noted for its stocky and muscular build, black fur, pungent odor and very loud and disturbing screech. It has a keen sense of smell and mostly active as a nocturnal creature exhibiting restless activity at dawn and dusk.
5. The devil has its forelegs unusually longer than its hind legs allowing it a relatively faster movement compared to other animals. They had been observed to run up to 13 km/hr (8.1 miles) for short distances.
6. Early explorers who arrived in Tasmania refer to devils in a vernacular name as Beelzebub’s pup in reference to a religious deity who is prince of hell and assistant of Satan. The far reaching vocalizations of devils at night made a lasting impression to the explorers.
7. Devils were endangered because they were seen as threat to livestock and often hunted for fur in Australia. In 1941 they were placed on protected status when scientists argued that the notion of the devil’s threat to livestock was an exaggerated estimate.
8. The Tasmanian devil has the strongest bite of any living mammal in relation to body mass. A devil’s bite had been recorded at a force of over 5,100 psi (35,000 kPa). In terms of bite force quotient (scientific measure of force of animal bite in relation to body size) the devil scored 181 compared to the lion’s mere 112 and the tiger’s 127 score.
9. Devils hunt prey and scavenge from flesh of dead animals. They are very competitive and males usually fight each other for female mates. Averaging four breeding seasons in their life, females give birth to 20-30 live young after three weeks.
10. Facial tumor disease is seen as the existing threat to the Tasmanian devil’s population since the 1990s. The government of Tasmania has undertaken efforts to reduce the spread of the disease by breeding a group of devils in captivity thus assuring the survival of the species.