Tasmanian Devils

Tasmanian devils are marsupials the size of a small dog, and have the strongest bite among any living mammals similar to their size and weight. Females carry their offspring for one hundred days.

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Tasmanian Devils

What do Tasmanian Devils eat?

The Tasmanian Devils are strictly carnivorous, eating insects, small prey such as snakes, birds, fish and mammals up to the size of a wombat, and carrion (carcasses or dead animal bodies). The Tasmanian devil scavenges most of its food and will eat whatever is handy. They have very powerful jaws and teeth enabling them to totally devour their prey, bones, fur and all.

They are bot hunters and scavengers, and essentially opportunistic carrion eaters. They are at their most rowdy when fighting over a large carcass.

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What role do Tasmanian Devils play in Australia?

Tasmanian devils play a very useful role in that they eat road kill from the side of the road. Unfortunately, this also poses a threat to the creature, as many then become victims of cars themselves.

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What can humans do to help save Tasmanian devils?

There are a number of ways that humans can help the Tasmanian devil.

Scientists are breeding Tasmanian Devils in captivity to limit the spread of the Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD). This disease is a great threat to Tasmanian devils living in the wild, affecting some two-thirds of the population.

Tasmanian devils are being housed in captive breeding programmes, which should prevent the extinction of the marsupial, but not necessarily in the wild. In January 2010, a team of international scientists pinpointed the genetic marker that predisposes Tasmanian devils towards this fatal disease. With this knowledge, there is now a better chance of a cure, which would also stop the disease decimating the wild Tasmanian devil population.

Everyday people can also help. Drivers can be extra careful when driving between dusk and dawn in bush and rural areas, as Tasmanian devils often feed on roadkill beside the road - thereby becoming roadkill themselves.

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Thorny Devils (lizard)

Where does the Tasmanian devil live?

The Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) is a carnivorous marsupial mammal that is native to Tasmania, the island state of Australia located off the southeast coast of the continent. It was once widespread on the Australian mainland, but the arrival of the Dingo and possibly climate change at the end of the last ice age, may have contributed to its extinction on the mainland.

Their habitat is eucalypt forest, woodlands, heath and farmland. Tasmanian devils have black fur with a white streak across the chest and often one across the rump. This assists the creature to camouflage in its native forest habitat.

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Tasmanian Devils

Is a Tasmanian devil's habitat hot or cold?

Tasmanian devils are now only found in Tasmania, Australia's southern island state, and the temperature in Tasmania varies considerably according to the seasons. Compared to the rest of Australia, however, the habitat of the Tasmanian devil tends to be cooler.

Tasmania has a cool temperate climate. This means that summer weather can vary between warm and pleasant and cold and rainy. Occasional periods of hot, dry weather, coupled with the extensive forests and bushland, mean that bushfires are a risk, and Tasmania has certainly some some devastating bushfires in the past. Generally, however, Tasmania is a very pleasant place in summer, and not subject to heat and humidity. Summer maximum temperatures range from an average of 21-24 degrees Celsius, with minimums of 10-12 degrees Celsius, depending on the area of Tasmania in which one lives.

Winters in Tasmania are very cold compared to the Australian mainland, with snow falling in the high country and parts of the Tasmanian devil's range. Winter maximum temperatures average 12-13 degrees Celsius, with minimums of 2-5 degrees Celsius on average. On average, of course, means that they can fall well below or above these ranges.

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English to Afrikaans

What is the Afrikaans name for devil's claw?

Duiwelsklou

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Tasmanian Devils

Why is it important to protect Tasmanian devils?

Tasmanian devils perform a very important function within their niche. They feed on carrion, which is the carcasses of dead animals, thereby cleaning up the environment. Apart from the native quoll and the introduced fox, there are no other mammal predators in Tasmania, so the Tasmanian devil is an important link in the food chain.

Further, the population of endangered animals give an idea of how healthy or unhealthy Australia's native bushland is. As populations decline, it is a warning that we are abusing our native bushland, and that certain practices (e.g. land-clearing and logging) must be changed.

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Tasmanian Devils

What will happen if Tasmanian devils become extinct?

If the Tasmanian Devil were to become extinct, Australia would lose the largest of its native carnivorous marsupials. Tasmanian devils play a part in the environment by keeping it clean. They are effective scavengers of carrion (dead animals and roadkill). This limits the prevalence of flies and the possibility of diseases resulting from decaying flesh of other animals. Without Tasmanian devils, carrion would litter the sides of the roads in Tasmania, while Australia would lose a beautiful and unique creature.

Extinction of Tasmanian devils would cause considerable disruption to the food chain. Tasmanian devils are at the top of the food chain. With the exception of the carnivorous quoll, which is quite a small marsupial, and birds of prey, there would be no predators of smaller mammals. The population of these herbivorous marsupials would increase dramatically, resulting in increased competition for food among them. In addition, the fox, which has only been introduced recently to Tasmania, would proliferate, as it would be the largest terrestrial wild carnivore on the island.

In addition, scientists have observed that a reduction in the numbers of one carnivorous species can result in the extinction of other carnivorous species.

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What is the Tasmanian Devil's population 2011?

The most recent figures for the Tasmanian devil are for 2009.

Figures from late 2009 indicate that, in recent decades, the Tasmanian Devil's population has dropped by 70% to an estimated 45,000 - 50,000 Tasmanian Devils in the wild. In reality, the figures could be as low as 10,000.

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Why are Tasmanian Devils endangered?

The Tasmanian Devil has only recently been classified as "endangered". Up until 2008, this marsupial was listed as "vulnerable" - that has now changed.

The Tasmanian Devil used to cover all of Australia but now it is limited to Tasmania. The arrival of the Dingo may have caused their extinction on the mainland, probably because they would have competed for the same food, and fossil evidence indicates that mainland Tasmaan devils were much smaller than their Tasmanian counterparts.

The Tasmanian Devil is endangered for a number of reasons, and one of them is because the farmers believed that it ate large numbers of livestock and poultry, and used to hunt it. (This is also why the Thylacine, or Tasmanian tiger died out.)

Other reasons include that they are often hit by cars as they feed on other road-killed animals. Some of the Tasmanian devils have been placed in protective captivity so humans and/or other animals cannot kill or hurt them.

Devil Facial Tumour Disease is rife at present and is another reason for keeping them in captivity. DFTD causes facial lesions which increase in size until the Tasmanian devil can no longer eat, and becomes susceptible to infections. DFTD has killed more than 90% of adults in high density areas and 45% of adults in medium to low density areas. At present, no Devils are being taken into captivity with existing captive animals in the hope that the current captive ones will be kept safe from the spread of this disease. The disease spreads through biting - and this is very common in Devils as they are natural fighters, battling tooth and claw for every morsel of food. Only the western third of Tasmania is currently free of the disease. 60% of the state is affected.

Currently there is no cure for the disease, and scientists estimate that unless the disease can be stopped in some way, Tasmanian Devils will be extinct within two decades. The Devils seem to be particularly vulnerable to this because of their genetic makeup: they have particularly low levels of genetic diversity and a chromosomal mutation which is unique among carnivorous mammals. It is hoped that, by studying this genetic makeup, scientists will be able to develop a vaccine and/or cure.

In January 2010, scientists isolated the genetic marker for the disease, and this is a big step towards finding a cure. Also, scientists have recently reported promising results in cancer cures from a drug manufactured from a certain type of brushwood in the North Queensland tropical rainforests. This has worked successfully in trials on cancerous tumours in cats, dogs and horses, and as well as being hoped to be a potential cure in human cancers, it is also hoped to be able to be used against DFTD. A number of groups have combined to fund, study, analyse and come up with a cure for DFTD. You can find out more about it or assist by going to the attached Web Page and selecting one of the options.

As the Devil numbers decrease, fox numbers are increasing. These introduced animals hunt and eat young Devils, and if the Devil numbers drop too low then there is little hope that the population will ever recover - those remaining will be destroyed by the foxes.

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What do Tasmanian devil tracks look like?

To view Tasmanian devil tracks, see the related link below. Click on the link, and hover over the image to view a larger picture.

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The Bible
Tasmanian Devils

Who is the Devil?

Christians believe that Satan is the devil. Satan entered post-Exilic Judaism as the 'adversary' but under the instructions of God, as we see in the Book of Job. In Christianity, Satan evolved to become the evil opponent of God, seeking to cause the faithful to deviate from righteousness and to destroy God's kingdom. Satan continued to evolve throughout much of the Middle Ages, at time as a figure of fun and sometimes with changes in how he exerts his wicked powers.

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Tasmanian Devils

What are some physical adaptations of a Tasmanian devil?

Physical adaptations of the Tasmanian devil include:

  • Its excellent senses. It will use its keen sense of smell to locate carrion during the day, and especially at night.
  • The Tasmanian devil has colouring that enables it to merge into its thick bushland shelter, and which assists it as a nocturnal creature. Its black coat with white stripe provides excellent camouflage in both the night, and in dense bushland and undergrowth.
  • Tasmanian devils can also emit a pungent odor as a defence mechanism when threatened.
  • Its vocal cords are capable of generating a frightening devil-like shriek, enough to scare away a curious predator, even though this noise is usually made during territorial fights, rather than as a defence.
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What is the binomial name of a Tasmanian devil?

The binomial name of the Tasmanian devil is Sarcophilus harrisii.

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Do people hunt Tasmanian devils for eating?

Only the indigenous Australians would have hunted the Tasmanian devil for eating.

These creatures were hunted by farmers and settlers prior to the mid 20th century, as they were believed (erroneously) to be a threat to livestock.

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Are a Tasmanian devil's jaws more powerful than a crocodile's jaws?

In proportion to its size, the Tasmanian devil does indeed have stronger jaws than a crocodile.

However, the crocodile is much larger, so its jaws are stronger, comparatively speaking.

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Tasmanian Devils

How long are newborn Tasmanian Devils?

Newborn Tasmanian devils are less than 2cm in length.

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Skunks
Tasmanian Devils

Are skunks and Tasmanian devils related?

No. Skunks are placental mammals of the family Mephitidae.

Tasmanian devils are marsupials of the family Dasyuridae.

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Tasmanian Devils

Do Tasmanian devils live in savannas?

No. Tasmanian devils do not live in grasslands. They live in temperate rainforest and dense native bushland or scrubland.

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Tasmanian Devils

What animals live in the same biome as Tasmanian devils do?

Tasmanian devils live in thick bushland or temperate forests in Tasmania, as long as there is sufficient undergrowth for them to hide. Animals which may share this biome include wombats, quolls, bandicoots, possums, pademelons and bettongs.

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Tasmanian Devils

How are Tasmanian devils adapted to their environment?

Tasmanian devils occupy a very unique niche in their habitat. They are assisted by numerous adaptations.

  • The most noticeable adaptation of Tasmanian devils is its excellent senses. It will use its great sense of smell to locate carrion during the day, but especially at night.
  • The Tasmanian devil is nocturnal, and an animal that prefers dense bushland shelter. Its black coat with white stripe provides excellent camouflage in both the night, and in dense bushland and undergrowth.
  • Tasmanian devils can also emit a pungent odor as a defence mechanism when threatened.
  • It has a frightening devil-like shriek, enough to scare away a curious predator, even though this noise is usually emitted during territorial fights, rather than as a defence.
  • The Tasmanian devil is a scavenger, eating dead animals already killed by other animals, and on roadkill. There are no dingoes on the island of Tasmania, so the Tasmanian devil is the largest carnivorous marsupial on Tasmania. Devils also hunt live prey.
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Tasmanian Devils

What are some of the Tasmanian devil's special features?

Tasmanian devils occupy a very unique niche in their habitat. They are assisted by numerous special features.

  • The Tasmanian devil is nocturnal, and an animal that prefers dense bushland shelter. Its black coat with white stripe provides excellent camouflage in both the night, and in dense bushland and undergrowth.
  • Tasmanian devils can also emit a pungent odor as a defence mechanism when threatened.
  • It has a frightening devil-like shriek, enough to scare away a curious predator, even though this noise is usually emitted during territorial fights, rather than as a defence.
  • The Tasmanian devil is a scavenger, eating dead animals already killed by other animals, and on roadkill. There are no dingoes on the island of Tasmania, so the Tasmanian devil is the largest carnivorous marsupial on Tasmania. Devils also hunt live prey.
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Tasmanian Devils

How do Tasmanian devils show anger?

The Tasmanian devil does not get "angry". By instinct, it is territorial, and will fight noisily with other Tasmanian devils for food and territory. When a Tasmanian devil shows aggression because it is defending its territory, it does so by any of the following means:

  • Its ears turn red.
  • It makes blood-curdling screams and howling noises.
  • It bites others of its species, and it has particularly sharp teeth and very strong jaws.
  • When threatened (but not so much when being aggressive), it can release a powerful and repulsive scent.
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Tasmanian Devils

What are some of the functions of the bumpy pads on a Tasmanian Devil's feet?

Tasmanian devils have dozens of tiny bumps on the rather large pads of their feet which appear to act as gripping pads. The friction created by the pads gives them better contact with surfaces for running. It gives the animal better speed and agility when in pursuit of prey.

Younger, lighter Tasmanian devils use the pads to help them climb, but they are not arboreal (tree-dwelling) creatures. It is believed that, because young devils are sometimes prey of larger ones, climbing trees helps them to escape.

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Do Tasmanian devils hurt or help humans?

Tasmanian devils do not harm humans in any way.

The Tasmanian devil performs the useful function of helping to keep the environment clean by eating carrion (dead animals). This limits the prevalence of flies and the possibility of diseases resulting from decaying flesh of other animals.

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