Tasmanian devil – not just a Looney Tunes character but a real-life marsupial
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Tasmanian devil – not just a Looney Tunes character but a real-life marsupial

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    As strange and funny as it may sound, the facts about the well known Looney Tunes cartoon character based on the real-life Tasmanian devil, portrayed as being an insatiable lunatic, seething and snapping animal, aren’t actually that far from the truth.


      Tasmanian devils possess a notoriously irritable and unpleasant disposition, and will go into a wildly disordered fury when menaced by any predators, getting in fights for a potential mate, or protecting a meal. Early European colonists gave it the name of “devil” after they’ve seen its various displays, which consist in teeth-baring, hurling, and some scary guttural growls.
The Tasmanian devil, scientifically known as Sarcophilus harrisii, is a really unusual carnivorous marsupial that belongs to the family Dasyuridae, spread only throughout the island state of Tasmania in Australia, and it is related to koalas and kangaroos. The Tasmanian devil is actually the largest surviving carnivorous marsupial in the whole world. Its appearance resembles that of a small dog, having a thick squad, a big head and a tail that’s approximately half the size of its body length. Uncommon for a marsupial, its forelegs are a bit longer in comparison to its hind legs, and Tasmanian devils have the ability to run up to a speed of 13 km/h, as in 8.1 mph, but only for short distances.
    The devil’s fur is typically black, frequently with white patches that are spread irregularly on their pectorals and croup, though about 16 percent of them don’t possess white patches. Due to these specific markings it is believed that the devils are most active during daybreak and nightfall, and they make biting attacks on less vital parts of the body because after a fight between devils, they often remain with a distribution of wounds in that surface. In general, males are larger in comparison with females, possessing an intermediate head and body length of 652 mm, as in 25.7 in, a tail length of 258 mm, meaning 22 in, and an intermediate weight of 8 kg, as in 18 lb. On the other hand, females possess an intermediate head and body length of 750 mm, as in 22 in, a tail length of 244 mm, meaning 9.6 in, and an intermediate weight of 6 kg, as in 13 lb, though devils throughout western Tasmania incline to be smaller in size. Devils got 5 long digits on their forefeet, 4 orienting to the front and 1 popping out from the side, which provides the marsupial the ability to grip food. The devil’s hind feet have 4 digits and it possess non-retractable claws. Furthermore, the thick devils possess a comparatively low centre of mass. 



    Researchers said that the Tasmanian devil’s big head and neck gives it the ability to produce one of the most powerful bites per unit body mass of a land predator, more precisely 1,200 pounds, as in 540 kg, per square inch, and the devil’s jaws are powerful enough to bite even through metal traps.
The devil’s long claws give it the ability to dig tunnels and look for subterranean food with ease, besides holding prey or mates strongly. Moreover, devils possess long whiskers on its face and in clusters on the top of the head, which aid the marsupial to localize prey when searching in the dark, and also help in founding out when other devils are nearby during eating. The whiskers may range from the tip of the chin to the back of the jaw and may extend over the span of its shoulder. The devil has a keen sense of hearing, and it also possesses a great olfactory system, which has an array of 1 kilometer, as in 0.6 mi. In contrast to other marsupials, the devil possesses a well determined and saddle formed ectotympanic. Because devils usually hunt during nighttime, their vision appears to be most intense in black and white. In this way, they can locate promptly objects in motion, but it is hard for them to spot stationary objects.
    Tasmanian devils communicate using a large variety of vocalizations and physical cues, for instance like yawning and lifting their tails up. People view Tasmanian devils with some sort of wonder due to the blood-clabbering shrills and growls they utilized, especially when a bunch of them are scavenging a dead body of an animal.
Furthermore, in spite of their rounded appearance, the Tasmanian devils are able of impressing feats of strength along with climbing trees and swimming across waters, such as rivers. Devils aren’t capable of running at high speeds to catch their prey, but they are great at distance sports as they have the ability to run approximately 15 mph, as in 24 kph, for a whole hour.

    Tasmanian devils were once distributed all over Australia, but today they inhabit just the island state of Tasmania, particularly its northwestern and eastern areas. A few usual environments for these marsupials consist in coastal moorlands, woodland forest underbrush, scrublands, rangeland, wooded rural regions and rainforests. The species that are active during the night can be often found throughout regions that include many human beings, for instance like outer suburbs of cities, probably because of the devils’ food-scavenging ways.
Similar to lots of other animals, Tasmanian devils set up dens in order to retreat when it’s the case. They mainly establish these lairs in burrows, stony caverns, among dense vegetation or in the centre of wooden logs. During the day, these devils remain in an inactive state called “torpor”. Torpor is very much alike hibernation because it aids the furry animals economize essential energy. When they are in torpor, Tasmanian devils remain inside their comfortable dens.

    Tasmanian devils have been thought of being livestock predators. However, in fact, these type of marsupials consume most of their big prey, for instance like wombats, sheep, rabbits and wallabies, in the carrion condition. Tasmanian devils are effective scavengers, feeding even on bones and fur. Tasmanian devils may have relied on carrion left behind from the killings of Tasmanian wolf in ancient times. Some other food sources, for instance like insects, insect larvae, snakes and small quantities of vegetation, are consumed when devils run into them. Typically, Tasmanian devils search for food in a slow, ponderous way, utilizing their sense of smell to locate food during nighttime. They are well known mostly for their raucous common feeding, which comes with an aggressive behavior and noisy vocalizations.

    Males compete between each other in order to mate with a specific female. However, the females are retained only for a limited period of time by a male for breeding purposes; there is no long term connection between males and females.
    The majority of mating occurs in March and the females usually give birth to their offspring in April when a gestation period that lasts 21 days is over. Mainly there are littler size between 2 and 3, though 4 mothers are available and, therefore, 4 newborns are possible. After birth, the baby devil goes into the pouch in which it stays for 4 months. When the young reach the age of 5-6 months, they are entirely weaned, getting to be independent in December. Female devils achieve sexual maturity when they are 2 years old.


    Tasmanian devils have been under protection from 1941, but their number of population has been reduced by more than 60% in the past 10 years. A lot of factors are linked with the decreasing population of the devils, taking into account hunting, trapping and even the extension of a very dangerous and lethal ailment called devil facial tumor disease. Nevertheless, their loss of natural environment doesn’t represent actually a great threat to Tasmanian devils like it is to lots of other animals, according to the program named Save the Tasmanian Devils. These marsupials have the possibility to move to new habitats easily and they can also adjust very well to various types of vegetation.
In the last years, a lot of Tasmanian devil populations have passed away due to a new, mainly fatal, cancer-like illness that is dispersing really fast all over Tasmania. Known as DFTD, short for devil facial tumor disease, this condition that spreads quickly is a rare contagious form of cancer that comes with large lumps which appears around the marsupial’s mouth and head, making feeding difficult for it. In the end, the marsupial dies due to starving. Specialists in animal health are impounding populations of devils where this disease has still not spread and are preparing captive breeding programs in order to rescue this species from extinction. Due to this occurrence, the Australian government has marked Tasmanian devils as being vulnerable and they are now under protection in Tasmania.
    Another threat for Tasmanian devils consists also in road vehicles because they are hard to see on roads.

Interesting facts
•    Tasmanian devil’s scientific name literally means “Harris’ meat lover”, Harris being the name of the scientist who first described this marsupial.
•    Tasmanian devils are known to feed on their prey cadavers by first pulling out the digestive system, which represents the softest portion of the animal’s body, and they often occupy the ensuing cavity while they’re still feeding.
•    Devils are capable of eating approximately 5 to 10 percent of their body weight in a single day, and possibly even more at a meal if they’re starved. If given the chance, they are capable of eating up to 40 percent of their body weight in no more than 30 minutes.
•    Tasmanian Devils have also some natural predators, but smaller devils may be threatened by eagles, owls and spotted tail quolls.
•    In threatening situations, devils will open its jaws very wide to indicate fear and uncertainty. Furthermore, when stressed, these animals will release a pungent odor in order to chase away the predators.
•    When a Tasmanian devil wants to challenge other devils, it’ll use a sharp sneezing sound, especially prior to a fight.
•    Due to the fact that they store fat in their tails, healthy animals have thick and swollen tails, while unhealthy ones have limp and skinny tails.
•    Typically, Tasmanian devils live between 7 and 8 years in their natural environment.
•    Tasmanian devils are really important as indigenous predators to the Tasmanian ecosystems.
•    Tasmanian devil’s big head and neck gives it the ability to produce one of the most powerful bites per unit body mass of a land predator, more precisely 1,200 pounds, as in 540 kg, per square inch, and the devil’s jaws are powerful enough to bite even through metal traps.

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Published by Claudia Barbu

23 November 2014, 21:04 Marsupial, Tasmanian devil, powerful bites, aggressive3018

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