Tasmanian Devil
Overview
The Tasmanian devil is a carnivorous
Carnivore
A carnivore meaning 'meat eater' is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of animal tissue, whether through predation or scavenging...

 marsupial
Marsupial
Marsupials are an infraclass of mammals, characterized by giving birth to relatively undeveloped young. Close to 70% of the 334 extant species occur in Australia, New Guinea, and nearby islands, with the remaining 100 found in the Americas, primarily in South America, but with thirteen in Central...

 of the family Dasyuridae
Dasyuridae
Dasyuridae is a family of marsupials native to Australia and New Guinea, including 61 species divided into 15 genera. Many are small and mouse-like, giving them the misnomer marsupial mice, but the group also includes the cat-sized quolls, as well as the Tasmanian Devil...

, now found in the wild only on the Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n island state
States and territories of Australia
The Commonwealth of Australia is a union of six states and various territories. The Australian mainland is made up of five states and three territories, with the sixth state of Tasmania being made up of islands. In addition there are six island territories, known as external territories, and a...

 of Tasmania
Tasmania
Tasmania is an Australian island and state. It is south of the continent, separated by Bass Strait. The state includes the island of Tasmania—the 26th largest island in the world—and the surrounding islands. The state has a population of 507,626 , of whom almost half reside in the greater Hobart...

. The size of a small dog
Dog
The domestic dog is a domesticated form of the gray wolf, a member of the Canidae family of the order Carnivora. The term is used for both feral and pet varieties. The dog may have been the first animal to be domesticated, and has been the most widely kept working, hunting, and companion animal in...

, it became the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world following the extinction
Extinction
In biology and ecology, extinction is the end of an organism or of a group of organisms , normally a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, although the capacity to breed and recover may have been lost before this point...

 of the thylacine
Thylacine
The thylacine or ,also ;binomial name: Thylacinus cynocephalus, Greek for "dog-headed pouched one") was the largest known carnivorous marsupial of modern times. It is commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger or the Tasmanian wolf...

 in 1936. It is characterised by its stocky and muscular build, black fur, pungent odour, extremely loud and disturbing screech, keen sense of smell, and ferocity when feeding.
Encyclopedia
The Tasmanian devil is a carnivorous
Carnivore
A carnivore meaning 'meat eater' is an organism that derives its energy and nutrient requirements from a diet consisting mainly or exclusively of animal tissue, whether through predation or scavenging...

 marsupial
Marsupial
Marsupials are an infraclass of mammals, characterized by giving birth to relatively undeveloped young. Close to 70% of the 334 extant species occur in Australia, New Guinea, and nearby islands, with the remaining 100 found in the Americas, primarily in South America, but with thirteen in Central...

 of the family Dasyuridae
Dasyuridae
Dasyuridae is a family of marsupials native to Australia and New Guinea, including 61 species divided into 15 genera. Many are small and mouse-like, giving them the misnomer marsupial mice, but the group also includes the cat-sized quolls, as well as the Tasmanian Devil...

, now found in the wild only on the Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

n island state
States and territories of Australia
The Commonwealth of Australia is a union of six states and various territories. The Australian mainland is made up of five states and three territories, with the sixth state of Tasmania being made up of islands. In addition there are six island territories, known as external territories, and a...

 of Tasmania
Tasmania
Tasmania is an Australian island and state. It is south of the continent, separated by Bass Strait. The state includes the island of Tasmania—the 26th largest island in the world—and the surrounding islands. The state has a population of 507,626 , of whom almost half reside in the greater Hobart...

. The size of a small dog
Dog
The domestic dog is a domesticated form of the gray wolf, a member of the Canidae family of the order Carnivora. The term is used for both feral and pet varieties. The dog may have been the first animal to be domesticated, and has been the most widely kept working, hunting, and companion animal in...

, it became the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world following the extinction
Extinction
In biology and ecology, extinction is the end of an organism or of a group of organisms , normally a species. The moment of extinction is generally considered to be the death of the last individual of the species, although the capacity to breed and recover may have been lost before this point...

 of the thylacine
Thylacine
The thylacine or ,also ;binomial name: Thylacinus cynocephalus, Greek for "dog-headed pouched one") was the largest known carnivorous marsupial of modern times. It is commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger or the Tasmanian wolf...

 in 1936. It is characterised by its stocky and muscular build, black fur, pungent odour, extremely loud and disturbing screech, keen sense of smell, and ferocity when feeding. The Tasmanian devil's large head and neck allow it to generate the strongest bite per unit body mass of any living mammal, and it hunts prey and scavenges carrion
Carrion
Carrion refers to the carcass of a dead animal. Carrion is an important food source for large carnivores and omnivores in most ecosystems. Examples of carrion-eaters include vultures, hawks, eagles, hyenas, Virginia Opossum, Tasmanian Devils, coyotes, Komodo dragons, and burying beetles...

 as well as eating household products if humans are living nearby. Although it is usually solitary, it sometimes eats with other devils and defecates in a communal location. Unlike most other dasyurids, the devil thermoregulates
Thermoregulation
Thermoregulation is the ability of an organism to keep its body temperature within certain boundaries, even when the surrounding temperature is very different...

 effectively and is active during the middle of the day without overheating. Despite its rotund appearance, the devil is capable of surprising speed and endurance, and can climb trees and swim across rivers.

It is believed that ancient marsupials migrated from what is now South America to Australia tens of millions of years ago during the time of Gondwana
Gondwana
In paleogeography, Gondwana , originally Gondwanaland, was the southernmost of two supercontinents that later became parts of the Pangaea supercontinent. It existed from approximately 510 to 180 million years ago . Gondwana is believed to have sutured between ca. 570 and 510 Mya,...

, and that they evolved as Australia became more arid. Fossils of species similar to modern devils have been found, but it is not known whether they were ancestors of the contemporary species, or whether the current devils co-existed with these species. The date that the Tasmanian devil disappeared
Local extinction
Local extinction, also known as extirpation, is the condition of a species which ceases to exist in the chosen geographic area of study, though it still exists elsewhere...

 from the Australian mainland is unclear; most evidence suggests they had contracted to three relict
Relict
A relict is a surviving remnant of a natural phenomenon.* In biology a relict is an organism that at an earlier time was abundant in a large area but now occurs at only one or a few small areas....

 populations around 3000 years ago. A tooth found in Augusta, Western Australia
Augusta, Western Australia
Augusta is a town on the south-west coast of Western Australia, where the Blackwood River emerges into Flinders Bay. It is the nearest town to Cape Leeuwin, on the farthest south-west corner of the Australian continent. In the 2001 census it had a population of 1,694; by 2006 the population of...

 has been dated to 430 years ago, but archaeologist Oliver Brown disputes this and considers the devil's mainland extinction to have occurred around 3000 years ago. This disappearance is usually blamed on dingo
Dingo
The Australian Dingo or Warrigal is a free-roaming wild dog unique to the continent of Australia, mainly found in the outback. Its original ancestors are thought to have arrived with humans from southeast Asia thousands of years ago, when dogs were still relatively undomesticated and closer to...

es, which are absent from Tasmania. Because they were seen as a threat to livestock
Livestock
Livestock refers to one or more domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to produce commodities such as food, fiber and labor. The term "livestock" as used in this article does not include poultry or farmed fish; however the inclusion of these, especially poultry, within the meaning...

 and animals that humans hunted for fur in Tasmania, devils were hunted and became endangered. In 1941, the devils, which were originally seen as implacably vicious, became officially protected. Since then, scientists have contended that earlier concerns that the devils were the most significant threat to livestock were overestimated and misplaced.

Devils are not monogamous, and their reproductive process is very robust and competitive. Males fight one another for the females, and then guard their partners to prevent female infidelity. Females can ovulate three times in as many weeks during the mating season, and 80% of two-year-old females are seen to be pregnant during the annual mating season. Females average four breeding seasons in their life and give birth to 20–30 live young after three weeks' gestation. The newborn are pink, lack fur, have indistinct facial features and weigh around 0.2 g (0.00705479242102239 oz) at birth. As there are only four nipples in the pouch, competition is fierce and few newborns survive. The young grow rapidly and are ejected from the pouch after around 100 days, weighing roughly 200 g (7.1 oz). The young become independent after around nine months, so the female spends most of her year in activities related to childbirth and rearing.

Since the late 1990s, devil facial tumour disease
Devil facial tumour disease
Devil facial tumour disease is an aggressive non-viral transmissible parasitic cancer—which likely originated in Schwann cells—that affects Tasmanian devils. The first "official case" was described in 1996, in Australia...

 has drastically reduced the devil population and now threatens the survival of the species, which in 2008 was declared to be endangered
Endangered species
An endangered species is a population of organisms which is at risk of becoming extinct because it is either few in numbers, or threatened by changing environmental or predation parameters...

. Programs are currently being undertaken by the Government of Tasmania
Government of Tasmania
The form of the Government of Tasmania is prescribed in its Constitution, which dates from 1856, although it has been amended many times since then...

 to reduce the impact of the disease, including an initiative to build up a group of healthy devils in captivity, isolated from the disease. While the thylacine was extant it preyed on the devil, which targeted young and unattended thylacine cubs in their dens. Nowadays, the devil is also preyed upon by the illegally introduced red fox
Red Fox
The red fox is the largest of the true foxes, as well as being the most geographically spread member of the Carnivora, being distributed across the entire northern hemisphere from the Arctic Circle to North Africa, Central America, and the steppes of Asia...

, and localised populations of devils have also been severely reduced by collisions with motor vehicles, particularly when they are eating roadkill themselves.

The devil is an iconic symbol of Tasmania and many organisations, groups and products associated with the state use the animal in their logos. It is seen as an important attractor of tourists to Tasmania and has come to worldwide attention through the Looney Tunes
Looney Tunes
Looney Tunes is a Warner Bros. animated cartoon series. It preceded the Merrie Melodies series and was Warner Bros.'s first animated theatrical series. Since its first official release, 1930's Sinkin' in the Bathtub, the series has become a worldwide media franchise, spawning several television...

 character of the same name
Tasmanian Devil (Looney Tunes)
The Tasmanian Devil, often referred to as Taz, is an animated cartoon character featured in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes series of cartoons. The character appeared in only five shorts before Warner Bros...

. Due to export restrictions and the failure of overseas devils to breed, there are almost no devils outside Australia except for any that have been illegally smuggled.

Taxonomy

Believing it to be a type of opossum, naturalist George Harris
George Prideaux Robert Harris
George Prideaux Robert Harris was a deputy surveyor and naturalist in Tasmania, Australia from 1803. He described many of the marsupials native to the Island, including the Tasmanian Devil and the Thylacine. He also described some plant species....

 wrote the first published description of the Tasmanian devil in 1807, naming it Didelphis ursina, due to its bearlike characteristics such as the round ear. He had earlier made a presentation on the topic at the Zoological Society of London
Zoological Society of London
The Zoological Society of London is a charity devoted to the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats...

. However, that particular binomial name had been given to the common wombat
Common Wombat
The common wombat , also known as the coarse-haired wombat or bare-nosed wombat, is a marsupial, one of three species of wombats and the only one in the genus Vombatus. The common wombat grows to an average of long and a weight of .- Taxonomy :The common wombat was first described by George Shaw...

 (later reclassified as Vombatus ursinus) by George Shaw
George Shaw
George Shaw was an English botanist and zoologist.Shaw was born at Bierton, Buckinghamshire and was educated at Magdalen Hall, Oxford, receiving his M.A. in 1772. He took up the profession of medical practitioner. In 1786 he became the assistant lecturer in botany at Oxford University...

 in 1800, and was hence unavailable. In 1838 a specimen was named Dasyurus laniarius by Richard Owen
Richard Owen
Sir Richard Owen, FRS KCB was an English biologist, comparative anatomist and palaeontologist.Owen is probably best remembered today for coining the word Dinosauria and for his outspoken opposition to Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection...

, but by 1877 he had relegated it to Sarcophilus. The modern Tasmanian devil was named Sarcophilus harrisii ("Harris's meat-lover") by French naturalist Pierre Boitard
Pierre Boitard
Pierre Boitard was a French botanist and geologist. As well as describing and classifying the Tasmanian Devil, he is notable for his fictional natural history Paris avant les hommes , published posthumously in 1861, which described a prehistoric ape-like human ancestor living in the region of Paris...

 in 1841. A later revision of the devil's taxonomy, published in 1987, attempted to change the species name to Sarcophilus laniarius based on mainland fossil records of only a few animals. However, this was not accepted by the taxonomic community at large; the name S. harrisii has been retained and S. laniarius relegated to a fossil species. "Beelzebub
Beelzebub
Beelzebub -Religious meaning:Ba‘al Zəbûb is variously understood to mean "lord of flies", or "lord of the dwelling". Originally the name of a Philistine god, Beelzebub is also identified in the New Testament as Satan, the "prince of the demons". In Arabic the name is retained as Ba‘al dhubaab /...

's pup" was an early vernacular name given to it by the explorers of Tasmania, in reference to a religious deity who is a prince of hell and an assistant of Satan
Satan
Satan , "the opposer", is the title of various entities, both human and divine, who challenge the faith of humans in the Hebrew Bible...

; the explorers first encountered the animal by hearing its far-reaching vocalisations at night. Related names that were used in the 19th century were Sarcophilus satanicus ("Satanic meatlover") and Diabolus ursinus ("ursine devil"), all due to early misconceptions of the devil as implacably vicious.

The Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) belongs to the family Dasyuridae
Dasyuridae
Dasyuridae is a family of marsupials native to Australia and New Guinea, including 61 species divided into 15 genera. Many are small and mouse-like, giving them the misnomer marsupial mice, but the group also includes the cat-sized quolls, as well as the Tasmanian Devil...

. The genus Sarcophilus contains two other species, known only from Pleistocene
Pleistocene
The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....

 fossils: S. laniarius and S. moomaensis. The relationships between the three species are not clear. Phylogenetic
Phylogenetics
In biology, phylogenetics is the study of evolutionary relatedness among groups of organisms , which is discovered through molecular sequencing data and morphological data matrices...

 analysis shows that the devil is most closely related to quoll
Quoll
The quoll, or native cat, is a carnivorous marsupial native to mainland Australia, New Guinea and Tasmania. It is primarily nocturnal and spends most of the day in its den. There are six species of quoll; four are found in Australia and two in New Guinea...

s.

The roots of Australian marsupials are thought to trace back tens of millions of years to when much of the current southern hemisphere was part of the supercontinent
Supercontinent
In geology, a supercontinent is a landmass comprising more than one continental core, or craton. The assembly of cratons and accreted terranes that form Eurasia qualifies as a supercontinent today.-History:...

 of Gondwana
Gondwana
In paleogeography, Gondwana , originally Gondwanaland, was the southernmost of two supercontinents that later became parts of the Pangaea supercontinent. It existed from approximately 510 to 180 million years ago . Gondwana is believed to have sutured between ca. 570 and 510 Mya,...

; marsupials are believed to have originated in what is now South America and migrated across Antarctica, which had a temperate climate at the time. As soil degradation took hold, it is believed that the marsupials adapted to the more basic flora of Australia. According to Pemberton, the possible ancestors of the devil may have needed to climb trees to acquire food, leading to a growth in size and the hopping gait of many marsupials. He speculated that these adaptations may have caused the contemporary devil's peculiar gait. The specific lineage of the Tasmanian devil is theorised to have emerged during the Miocene
Miocene
The Miocene is a geological epoch of the Neogene Period and extends from about . The Miocene was named by Sir Charles Lyell. Its name comes from the Greek words and and means "less recent" because it has 18% fewer modern sea invertebrates than the Pliocene. The Miocene follows the Oligocene...

, molecular evidence suggesting a split from the ancestors of quolls between 10 and 15 million years ago, when severe climate change came to bear in Australia, transforming the climate from warm and moist to an arid, dry ice age, resulting in mass extinctions. As most of their prey died of the cold, only a few carnivores survived, including the ancestors of the quoll and thylacine. It is speculated that the devil lineage may have arisen at this time to fill a niche in the ecosystem, as a scavenger that disposed of carrion left behind by the selective-eating thylacine. The extinct Glaucodon
Glaucodon
Glaucodon is an extinct genus of marsupial from Australia.- Sources :*Gerdtz, W. and Archbold, N. Glaucodon ballaratensis , a Late Pliocene 'Devil' from Batesford, Victoria, Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria, Vol 115, No 2, pp. 35–44, Royal Society of Victoria, Australia.*Wildlife...

 ballaratensis
of the Pliocene
Pliocene
The Pliocene Epoch is the period in the geologic timescale that extends from 5.332 million to 2.588 million years before present. It is the second and youngest epoch of the Neogene Period in the Cenozoic Era. The Pliocene follows the Miocene Epoch and is followed by the Pleistocene Epoch...

 age has been dubbed an intermediate species between the quoll and devil. Fossil deposits in limestone caves at Naracoorte, South Australia
Naracoorte, South Australia
Naracoorte is a town in the Limestone Coast region of South Australia, approximately 336 kilometres south east of Adelaide and 100 kilometres north of Mount Gambier on the Riddoch Highway .-History:...

, dating to the Miocene
Miocene
The Miocene is a geological epoch of the Neogene Period and extends from about . The Miocene was named by Sir Charles Lyell. Its name comes from the Greek words and and means "less recent" because it has 18% fewer modern sea invertebrates than the Pliocene. The Miocene follows the Oligocene...

 include specimens of S. laniarius
Sarcophilus laniarius
Sarcophilus laniarius is an extinct species of large tasmanian devil. Richard Owen originally called the specimen on which the genus was based Dasyurus laniarus....

, which were around 15% larger and 50% heavier than modern devils. Older specimens believed to be 50–70,000 years old were found in Darling Downs in Queensland
Queensland
Queensland is a state of Australia, occupying the north-eastern section of the mainland continent. It is bordered by the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales to the west, south-west and south respectively. To the east, Queensland is bordered by the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean...

 and in Western Australia
Western Australia
Western Australia is a state of Australia, occupying the entire western third of the Australian continent. It is bounded by the Indian Ocean to the north and west, the Great Australian Bight and Indian Ocean to the south, the Northern Territory to the north-east and South Australia to the south-east...

. It is not clear whether the modern devil evolved from S. laniarius, or whether they coexisted at the time. Richard Owen argued for the latter hypothesis in the 19th century, based on fossils found in 1877 in New South Wales
New South Wales
New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...

. Large bones attributed to S. moornaensis have been found in New South Wales, and it has been conjectured that these two extinct larger species may have hunted and scavenged. It is known that there were several genera
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 of thylacine millions of years ago, and that they ranged in size, the smaller being more reliant on foraging. As the devil and thylacine are similar, the extinction of the co-existing thylacine genera has been cited as evidence for an analogous history for the devils. It has been speculated that the smaller size of S. laniarius and S. moornaensis allowed them to adapt to the changing conditions more effectively and survive longer than the corresponding thylacines. As the extinction of these two species came at a similar time to human habitation of Australia, hunting by humans and land clearance have been mooted as possible causes. Critics of this theory point out that as indigenous Australians only developed boomerang
Boomerang
A boomerang is a flying tool with a curved shape used as a weapon or for sport.-Description:A boomerang is usually thought of as a wooden device, although historically boomerang-like devices have also been made from bones. Modern boomerangs used for sport are often made from carbon fibre-reinforced...

s and spears for hunting around 10,000 years ago, a critical fall in numbers due to systematic hunting is unlikely. They also point out that caves inhabited by Aborigines have a low proportion of bones and rock paintings of devils, and suggest that this is an indication that it was not a large part of indigenous lifestyle. A scientific report in 1910 claimed that Aborigines preferred the meat of herbivores rather than carnivores. The other main theory for the extinction was that it was due to the climate change brought on by the most recent ice age.

While dingoes are seen as the main reason for the disappearance of devils from the mainland, another theory is that the increasing aridity of the mainland caused it, while the population in Tasmania has been largely unaffected as the climate remains cool and moist. According to this theory, the dingo was only a secondary cause.

As the devil is the thylacine's closest relative, there has been speculation that the thylacine could be revived by combining DNA from museum samples of thylacines with ova
Ovum
An ovum is a haploid female reproductive cell or gamete. Both animals and embryophytes have ova. The term ovule is used for the young ovum of an animal, as well as the plant structure that carries the female gametophyte and egg cell and develops into a seed after fertilization...

 of the devil.

Genetics

The Tasmanian devil's genome was sequenced in 2010 by the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute. Like all dasyurids, the devil has 14 chromosomes. Devils have a low genetic diversity
Genetic diversity
Genetic diversity, the level of biodiversity, refers to the total number of genetic characteristics in the genetic makeup of a species. It is distinguished from genetic variability, which describes the tendency of genetic characteristics to vary....

 compared to other Australian marsupials and placental carnivores; this is consistent with a founder effect
Founder effect
In population genetics, the founder effect is the loss of genetic variation that occurs when a new population is established by a very small number of individuals from a larger population. It was first fully outlined by Ernst Mayr in 1942, using existing theoretical work by those such as Sewall...

 as allelic size ranges were low and nearly continuous throughout all subpopulations measured. Allelic diversity was measured at 2.7–3.3 in the subpopulations sampled, and heterozygosity was in the range 0.386–0.467. According to a study by Menna Jones, "gene flow
Gene flow
In population genetics, gene flow is the transfer of alleles of genes from one population to another.Migration into or out of a population may be responsible for a marked change in allele frequencies...

 appears extensive up to 50 km (31 mi)", meaning a high assignment rate to source or close neighbour populations "in agreement with movement data. At larger scales (150 –), gene flow is reduced but there is no evidence for isolation by distance". Island effects
Foster's rule
Foster's rule is a principle in evolutionary biology stating that members of a species get smaller or bigger depending on the resources available in the environment. This is the core of the study of island biogeography. For example, it is known that pygmy mammoths evolved from normal mammoths on...

 may also have also contributed to their low genetic diversity. Periods of low population density may also have created moderate population bottleneck
Population bottleneck
A population bottleneck is an evolutionary event in which a significant percentage of a population or species is killed or otherwise prevented from reproducing....

s, reducing genetic diversity. Outbreaks of devil facial tumour disease
Devil facial tumour disease
Devil facial tumour disease is an aggressive non-viral transmissible parasitic cancer—which likely originated in Schwann cells—that affects Tasmanian devils. The first "official case" was described in 1996, in Australia...

 (DFTD) cause an increase in inbreeding
Inbreeding
Inbreeding is the reproduction from the mating of two genetically related parents. Inbreeding results in increased homozygosity, which can increase the chances of offspring being affected by recessive or deleterious traits. This generally leads to a decreased fitness of a population, which is...

. A sub-population of devils in the north-west of the state is genetically distinct from other devils, but there is some exchange between the two groups.

One strand conformation polymorphism analysis (OSCP) on the major histocompatibility complex
Major histocompatibility complex
Major histocompatibility complex is a cell surface molecule encoded by a large gene family in all vertebrates. MHC molecules mediate interactions of leukocytes, also called white blood cells , which are immune cells, with other leukocytes or body cells...

 (MHC) class I
MHC class I
MHC class I molecules are one of two primary classes of major histocompatibility complex molecules and are found on every nucleated cell of the body...

 domain taken from various locations across Tasmania showed 25 different types, and showed a different pattern of MHC types in north-western Tasmania to eastern Tasmania. Those devils in the east of the state have less MHC diversity; 30% are of the same type as the tumour (type 1), and 24% are of type A. Seven of every ten devils in the east are of type A, D, G or 1, which are linked to DFTD; whereas only 55% of the western devils fall into these MHC categories. Of the 25 MHC types, 40% are exclusive to the western devils.
Although the north-west population is less genetically diverse overall, it has higher MHC gene diversity, which allows them to mount an immune response to DFTD. According to this research, mixing the devils may increase the chance of disease.
Of the fifteen different regions in Tasmania surveyed in this research, six were in the eastern half of the island. In the eastern half, Epping Forest had only two different types, 75% being type O. In the Buckland-Nugent area, only three types were present, and there were an average of 5.33 different types per location. In contrast, in the west, Cape Sorell yielded three types, and Togari North-Christmas Hills yielded six, but the other seven sites all had at least eight MHC types, and West Pencil Pine had 15 types. There was an average of 10.11 MHC types per site in the west.

Description

The Tasmanian devil is the largest surviving carnivorous marsupial
Marsupial
Marsupials are an infraclass of mammals, characterized by giving birth to relatively undeveloped young. Close to 70% of the 334 extant species occur in Australia, New Guinea, and nearby islands, with the remaining 100 found in the Americas, primarily in South America, but with thirteen in Central...

 in Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

. It has a squat, thick build, with a large head and a tail which is about half its body length. Unusually for a marsupial, its forelegs are slightly longer than its hind legs, and devils can run up to 13 km/h (8.1 mph) for short distances. The fur is usually black, often with irregular white patches on the chest and rump (although approximately 16% of wild devils do not have white patches). These markings suggest that the devil is most active at dawn and dusk, and they are thought to draw biting attacks toward less important areas of the body, as fighting between devils often leads to a concentration of scars in that region. Males are usually larger than females, having an average head and body length of 652 mm (25.7 in), a 258 mm (10.2 in) tail and an average weight of 8 kg (17.6 lb). Females have an average head and body length of 570 mm (22.4 in), a 244 mm (9.6 in) tail and an average weight of 6 kg (13.2 lb), although devils in western Tasmania tend to be smaller. Devils have five long toes on their forefeet, four pointing to the front and one coming out from the side, which gives the devil the ability to hold food. The hind feet have four toes, and the devils have non-retractable claws. The stocky devils have a relatively low centre of mass. Devils are fully grown at two years of age, and few devils live longer than five years old in the wild.

The devil stores body fat in its tail, and healthy devils have fat tails. The tail is largely non-prehensile and is important to its physiology, social behaviour and locomotion. It acts as a counterbalance to aid stability when the devil is moving quickly. An ano-genital scent gland at the base of its tail is used to mark the ground behind the animal with its strong, pungent scent.

The male has external testes in a pouch-like structure formed by lateral ventrocrural folds of the abdomen, which partially hides and protects them. The testes are subovoid in shape and the mean dimensions of 30 testes of adult males was 3.17 ×. The female's pouch opens backwards, and is present throughout its life, unlike some other dasyurids.
The Tasmanian devil has an exceptionally strong bite for its size, generating a force of over 553 N (1,219.2 lb). The jaw can open to 75–80 degrees, allowing the devil to generate the large amount of power to tear meat and crush bones – sufficient force to allow it to bite through thick metal wire. The power of the jaw
Jaw
The jaw is any opposable articulated structure at the entrance of the mouth, typically used for grasping and manipulating food. The term jaws is also broadly applied to the whole of the structures constituting the vault of the mouth and serving to open and close it and is part of the body plan of...

s is in part due to its comparatively large head. The teeth and jaws of Tasmanian devils resemble those of hyena
Hyena
Hyenas or Hyaenas are the animals of the family Hyaenidae of suborder feliforms of the Carnivora. It is the fourth smallest biological family in the Carnivora , and one of the smallest in the mammalia...

s, an example of convergent evolution
Convergent evolution
Convergent evolution describes the acquisition of the same biological trait in unrelated lineages.The wing is a classic example of convergent evolution in action. Although their last common ancestor did not have wings, both birds and bats do, and are capable of powered flight. The wings are...

. Dasyurid teeth resemble those of primitive marsupials. Like all dasyurids, the devil has prominent canines and cheek teeth. It has three pairs of lower incisors and four pairs of upper incisors. These are located at the top of the front of the devil's mouth. Like dogs, it has 42 teeth, which are not replaced after birth but grow continuously throughout life at a slow rate. It has a "highly carnivorous dentition
Dentition
Dentition pertains to the development of teeth and their arrangement in the mouth. In particular, the characteristic arrangement, kind, and number of teeth in a given species at a given age...

 and trophic adaptations for bone consumption". The devil has long claws that allow it to dig burrows and seek subterranean food easily and grip prey or mates strongly. The teeth and claw strength allow the devil to attack wombats up to 30 kg (66.1 lb) in weight. The large neck and forebody that give the devil its strength also cause this strength to be biased towards the front half of the body; the lopsided, awkward, shuffling gait of the devil is attributed to this.

The devil has long whiskers
Vibrissae
Vibrissae , or whiskers, are specialized hairs usually employed for tactile sensation. The term may also refer to the thick hairs found inside human nostrils, but these have no sensorial function and only operate as an airborne particulate barrier...

 on its face and in clumps on the top of the head. These help the devil locate prey when foraging in the dark, and aid in detecting when other devils are close during feeding. The whiskers can extend from the tip of the chin to the rear of the jaw and can cover the span of its shoulder. Hearing is its dominant sense, and it also has an excellent sense of smell, which has a range of 1 kilometre (0.621372736649807 mi). The devil, unlike other marsupials, has a "well-defined, saddle-shaped ectotympanic
Ectotympanic
The ectomtympanic is a bone that suspends the eardrum in mammals. It is homologus with the angular....

". Since devils hunt at night, their vision seems to be strongest in black and white. In these conditions they can detect moving objects readily, but have difficulty seeing stationary objects.

Distribution and habitat

Devils are found in all habitats on the island of Tasmania, including the outskirts of urban areas, and are distributed throughout the Tasmanian mainland and on Robbins Island, (which is connected to mainland Tasmania at low tide). The north-western population is located west of the Forth River
River Forth
The River Forth , long, is the major river draining the eastern part of the central belt of Scotland.The Forth rises in Loch Ard in the Trossachs, a mountainous area some west of Stirling...

 and as far south as Macquarie Heads
Macquarie Harbour
Macquarie Harbour is a large, shallow, but navigable by shallow draft vessels inlet on the West Coast of Tasmania, Australia.-History:James Kelly wrote in his narrative "First Discovery of Port Davey and Macquarie Harbour" how he sailed from Hobart in a small open five-oared whaleboat to discover...

. Previously, they were present on Bruny Island from the 19th century, but there have been no records of them after 1900, and they were introduced to Badger Island
Badger Island
Badger Island is a low-lying granite and limestone island, with an area of 1242 ha, in south-eastern Australia. It is part of Tasmania’s Badger Island Group, lying in eastern Bass Strait just west of Flinders and Cape Barren Islands in the Furneaux Group. The island is private property and is...

 in the mid-1990s but are thought to have died out by 2005.

The "core habitat" of the devils is considered to be within the "low to moderate annual rainfall zone
Climate of Tasmania
Tasmania has a cool temperate climate with four distinct seasons. Summer lasts from December to February when the average maximum sea temperature is and inland areas around Launceston reach . Other inland areas are much cooler with Liawenee, located on the Central Plateau, one of the coldest...

 of eastern and north-western Tasmania". Tasmanian devils particularly like dry sclerophyll
Sclerophyll
Sclerophyll is the term for a type of vegetation that has hard leaves and short internodes . The word comes from the Greek sclero and phyllon ....

 forests and coastal woodlands. Although they are not found at the highest altitudes of Tasmania, and their population density
Population density
Population density is a measurement of population per unit area or unit volume. It is frequently applied to living organisms, and particularly to humans...

 is low in the button grass
Gymnoschoenus sphaerocephalus
Gymnoschoenus sphaerocephalus, commonly known as button grass, is a species of tussock-forming grass from southeastern Australia. It forms part of a unique habitat in Tasmania....

 plains in the south-west of the state, their population is high in dry or mixed sclerophyll forests and coastal heaths. Devils prefer open forest to tall forest, and dry rather than wet forests. They are also found near roads where roadkill is prevalent, although the devils themselves are often killed by vehicles while retrieving the carrion. According to the Threatened Species Scientific Committee, their versatility means that habitat modification from destruction is not seen as a major threat to the species.

The devil is directly linked to the Dasyurotaenia robusta, a tapeworm which is classified as Rare under the Tasmanian Threatened Species Protection Act 1995. This tapeworm is found only in devils.

Ecology and behaviour

The Tasmanian devil is a nocturnal
Nocturnal animal
Nocturnality is an animal behavior characterized by activity during the night and sleeping during the day. The common adjective is "nocturnal"....

 and crepuscular
Crepuscular
Crepuscular animals are those that are active primarily during twilight, that is during dawn and dusk. The word is derived from the Latin word crepusculum, meaning "twilight." Crepuscular is, thus, in contrast with diurnal and nocturnal behavior. Crepuscular animals may also be active on a bright...

 hunter, spending the days in dense bush or in a hole. It has been speculated that nocturnalism may have been adopted to avoid predation by eagles and humans. Young devils are predominantly crepuscular. There is no evidence of torpor
Torpor
Torpor, sometimes called temporary hibernation is a state of decreased physiological activity in an animal, usually characterized by a reduced body temperature and rate of metabolism. Animals that go through torpor include birds and some mammals such as mice and bats...

.

Young devils can climb trees, but this becomes more difficult as they grow larger. Devils can scale trees of trunk diameter larger than 40 cm (16 in), which tend to have no small side branches to hand onto, up to a height of around 2.5–3 m (8–10 ft). Devils that are yet to reach maturity can climb shrubs to a height of 4 metres (13.1 ft), and can climb a tree to 7 m (25 ft) if it is not vertical. Adult devils may eat young devils if they are very hungry, so this climbing behaviour may be an adaptation to allow young devils to escape. Devils can also swim and have been observed crossing rivers that are 50 metres (164 ft) in width, including icy cold waterways, apparently enthusiastically.

Tasmanian devils do not form packs, but rather spend most of their time alone once weaned. Classically considered as solitary animals, their social interactions were poorly understood. However, a field study published in 2009 shed some light on this. Tasmanian devils in Narawntapu National Park
Narawntapu National Park
Narawntapu is a national park in Tasmania, Australia. It lies on Tasmania's north coast, adjoining Bass Strait, between Port Sorell in the west and the mouth of the Tamar River in the east...

 were fitted with proximity sensing radio collars
Tracking collar
Tracking collars are collars used as a radio beacon to track animal migration for research. Some pet owners use these collars for GPS tracking and geofencing of their pets....

 which recorded their interactions with other devils over several months from February to June 2006. This revealed that all devils were part of a single huge contact network, characterised by male-female interactions during mating season, while female-female interactions were the most common at other times, although frequency and patterns of contact did not vary markedly between seasons. Previously thought to fight over food, males only rarely interacted with other males. Hence, all devils in a region are part of a single social network. They are considered to be non-territorial
Territory (animal)
In ethology the term territory refers to any sociographical area that an animal of a particular species consistently defends against conspecifics...

 in general, but females are territorial around their dens. This allows a higher total mass of devils to occupy a given area than territorial animals, without conflict. Tasmanian devils instead occupy a home range
Home range
Home range is the area where an animal lives and travels in. It is closely related to, but not identical with, the concept of "territory".The concept that can be traced back to a publication in 1943 by W. H. Burt, who constructed maps delineating the spatial extent or outside boundary of an...

. In a period of between two and four weeks, devils' home ranges are estimated to vary between 4 and 27 km² (988.4 and 6,671.8 acre), with an average of 13 km² (3,212.4 acre). The location and geometry of these areas depend on the distribution of food, particularly wallabies and pademelon
Pademelon
Pademelons are small marsupials of the genus Thylogale. They are usually found in forests. Pademelons are the smallest of the macropods...

s nearby.

Devils use three or four dens regularly. Dens formerly owned by wombats are especially prized as maternity dens because of their security. Dense vegetation near creeks, thick grass tussocks, and caves are also used as dens. Adult devils use the same dens for life. It is believed that, as a secure den is highly prized, some may have been used for several centuries by generations of animals. Studies have suggested that food security is less important than den security, as habitat destruction that impacts the latter has had more effect on mortality rates. Young pups remain in one den with their mother, and other devils are mobile, changing dens every 1–3 days and travelling a mean
Mean
In statistics, mean has two related meanings:* the arithmetic mean .* the expected value of a random variable, which is also called the population mean....

 distance of 8.6 kilometres (5.3 mi) every night. However, there are also reports that an upper bound can be 50 kilometres (31.1 mi) per night. They choose to travel through lowlands, saddles and along the banks of creeks, particularly preferring carved-out tracks and livestock paths and eschewing steep slopes and rocky terrain. The amount of movement is believed to be similar throughout the year, except for mothers who have given birth recently. The similarity in travel distances for males and females is unusual for sexually dimorphic, solitary carnivores. As a male needs more food, he will spend more time eating than travelling. Devils typically make circuits of their home range during their hunts. In areas near human habitation, they are known to steal clothes, blankets and pillows and take them for use in dens in wooden buildings.

While the dasyurids have similar diet and anatomy, differing body sizes affect thermoregulation
Thermoregulation
Thermoregulation is the ability of an organism to keep its body temperature within certain boundaries, even when the surrounding temperature is very different...

 and thus behaviour. In ambient temperatures between 5 and 30 °C (41 and 86 °F), the devil was able to maintain a body temperature between 37.4 and 38 °C (99.3 and 100.4 °F). When the temperature was raised to 40 °C (104 °F), and the humidity to 50%, the devil's body temperature spiked upwards by 2 °C (3.6 °F) within 60 minutes, but then steadily decreased back to the starting temperature after a further two hours, and remained there for two more hours. During the this time, the devil drank water and showed no visible signs of discomfort, leading scientists to believe that sweating and evaporative cooling is its primary means of heat dissipation. A later study found that devils pant but do not sweat to release heat. In contrast, many other marsupials were unable to keep their body temperatures down. As the smaller animals have to live in hotter and more arid conditions to which they are less well-adapted, they take up a nocturnal lifestyle and drop their body temperatures during the day, whereas the devil is active in the day and its body temperature varies by 1.8 °C (3.2 °F) from its minimum at night to the maximum in the middle of the day.

The standard metabolic rate of a Tasmanian devil is 141 kJ/kg (15.3 kcal
Calorie
The calorie is a pre-SI metric unit of energy. It was first defined by Nicolas Clément in 1824 as a unit of heat, entering French and English dictionaries between 1841 and 1867. In most fields its use is archaic, having been replaced by the SI unit of energy, the joule...

/lb) per day, many times lower than smaller marsupials. A 5 kilograms (11 lb) devil uses 712 kilojoules (170.2 kcal) per day. The field metabolic rate is 407 kJ/kg (44.1 kcal/lb). Along with quolls, Tasmanian devils have a metabolic rate comparable to non-carnivorous marsupials of a similar size. This differs from placental carnivores, which have comparatively high basal metabolic rates. A study of devils showed a loss of weight from 7.9 to 7.1 kg (17.4 to 15.7 ) from summer to winter, but in the same time, daily energy consumption increased from 2591 to 2890 kJ (619.3 to 690.7 kcal). This is equivalent to an increase in food consumption from 518 to 578 g (18.3 to 20.4 ). The diet is protein-based with 70% water content. For every 1 gram (0.035273962105112 oz) of insects consumed, 3.5 kilojoule (0.836520076481836 kcal) of energy are produced, while a corresponding amount of wallaby meat generated 5 kilojoules (1.2 kcal). In terms of its body mass, the devil eats only a quarter of the eastern quoll
Eastern Quoll
The Eastern Quoll , also known as the Eastern Native Cat, is a medium-sized carnivorous dasyurid marsupial native to Australia. They are now considered extinct on the mainland, but remain widespread and even locally common in Tasmania...

's intake, allowing it to survive longer during food shortages.

The devil is a keystone species
Keystone species
A keystone species is a species that has a disproportionately large effect on its environment relative to its abundance. Such species play a critical role in maintaining the structure of an ecological community, affecting many other organisms in an ecosystem and helping to determine the types and...

 in the ecosystem of Tasmania.

Feeding

Tasmanian devils can take prey up to the size of a small kangaroo
Kangaroo
A kangaroo is a marsupial from the family Macropodidae . In common use the term is used to describe the largest species from this family, especially those of the genus Macropus, Red Kangaroo, Antilopine Kangaroo, Eastern Grey Kangaroo and Western Grey Kangaroo. Kangaroos are endemic to the country...

, but in practice they are opportunistic and eat carrion
Carrion
Carrion refers to the carcass of a dead animal. Carrion is an important food source for large carnivores and omnivores in most ecosystems. Examples of carrion-eaters include vultures, hawks, eagles, hyenas, Virginia Opossum, Tasmanian Devils, coyotes, Komodo dragons, and burying beetles...

 more often than they hunt live prey. Although the devil favours wombat
Wombat
Wombats are Australian marsupials; they are short-legged, muscular quadrupeds, approximately in length with a short, stubby tail. They are adaptable in their habitat tolerances, and are found in forested, mountainous, and heathland areas of south-eastern Australia, including Tasmania, as well as...

s because of the ease of predation and high fat content, it will eat all small native mammals such as bettong
Bettong
The bettongs are species of the genus Bettongia, sometimes referred to as rat-kangaroos. Five species are recognised:* Eastern Bettong, Bettongia gaimardi* Boodie, Bettongia lesueur...

 and potoroo
Potoroo
The Potoroo is a kangaroo/rat like animal about the size of a rabbit. All three extant species are threatened, especially The long-footed Potoroo and Gilbert's potoroo...

s, domestic mammals (including sheep), birds, fish, fruit, vegetable matter, insects, tadpoles, frogs and reptiles. Their diet is widely varied and depends on the food available. Before the extinction of the thylacine, the Tasmanian devil ate thylacine cubs left alone in dens when their parents were away. This may have helped to hasten the extinction of the thylacine, which also ate devils. They are known to hunt water rats by the sea and forage on dead fish that have been washed ashore. Near human habitation, they can also steal shoes and chew on them, and eat the legs of otherwise robust sheep when they have slipped in wooden shearing sheds, leaving their legs dangling below. Other unusual matter observed in devil scats includes collars and tags of devoured animals, intact echidna spines, pencil, plastic and jeans. Although devils can bite through metal traps, they tend to reserve their strong jaws for escaping captivity rather than breaking into food storage. Due to their relative lack of speed, they can not run down a wallaby or a rabbit, but they can attack animals that have become slow due to illness. They survey flocks of sheep by sniffing them from 10–15 m away and attack if the prey is ill. The sheep stamp their feet in a show of strength.

Despite their lack of extreme speed, there have been reports that devils can run at 25 km/h for 1.5 km, and it has been conjectured that, before European immigration and the introduction of livestock, vehicles and roadkill, they would have had to chase other native animals at a reasonable pace to find food. Pemberton has reported that they can average 10 km/h for "extended periods" on several nights per week, and that they run for long distances before sitting still for up to half an hour, something that has been interpreted as evidence of ambush predation.

Devils can dig to forage corpses, in one case digging down to eat the corpse of a buried horse that had died due to illness. They are known to eat animal cadavers by first ripping out the digestive system, which is the softest part of the anatomy, and they often reside in the resulting cavity while they are eating.

On average, devils eat about 15% of their body weight each day, although they can eat up to 40% of their body weight in 30 minutes if the opportunity arises. This means they can become very heavy and lethargic after a large meal; in this state they tend to waddle away slowly and lie down, becoming easy to approach. This has led to a belief that such eating habits became possible due to the lack of a predator to attack such bloated individuals.

Tasmanian devils can eliminate all traces of a carcass of a smaller animal, devouring the bones and fur if desired. In this respect, devils have earned the gratitude of Tasmanian farmers, as the speed at which they clean a carcass helps prevent the spread of insects that might otherwise harm livestock. Some of these dead animals are disposed of when the devils haul off the excess feed back to their residence to continue eating at a later time.

The diet of a devil can vary substantially for males and females, and seasonally, according to studies at Cradle Mountain. In winter, males prefer medium mammals over larger ones, with a ratio of 4:5, but in summer, they prefer larger prey in a 7:2 ratio. These two categories accounted for more than 95% of the diet. Females are less inclined to target large prey, but have the same seasonal bias. In winter, large and medium mammals account for 25 and 58% each, with 7% small mammals and 10% birds. In summer, the first two categories account for 61 and 37% respectively.

Juvenile devils are sometimes known to climb trees; in addition to small vertebrates and invertebrates, juveniles climb trees to eat grubs and birds' eggs. Juveniles have also been observed climbing into nests and capturing birds. Throughout the year, adult devils derive 16.2% of their biomass intake from arboreal species, almost all of which is possum meat, just 1.0% being large birds. From February to July, subadult devils derive 35.8% of their biomass intake from arboreal life, 12.2% being small birds and 23.2% being possums. Female devils in winter source 40.0% of their intake from arboreal species, including 26.7% from possums and 8.9% from various birds. Not all of these animals were caught while they were in trees, but this high figure for females, which is higher than for male spotted-tailed quolls during the same season, is unusual, as the devil has inferior tree climbing skills.
Although they hunt alone, there have been unsubstantiated claims of communal hunting, where one devil drives prey out of its habitat and an accomplice attacks. Eating is a social event for the Tasmanian devil. This combination of a solitary animal that eats communally makes the devil unique among carnivores. Much of the noise attributed to the animal is a result of raucous communal eating, at which up to 12 individuals can gather, although groups of 2 to 5 are common; it can often be heard several kilometres away. This has been interpreted as notifications to colleagues to share in the meal, so that food is not wasted by rot and energy is saved. The amount of noise is correlated to the size of the carcass. The devils eat in accordance with a system. Juveniles are active at dusk, so they tend to reach the source before the adults. Typically, the dominant animal eats until it is satiated and leaves, fighting off any challengers in the meantime. Defeated animals run into the bush with their hair and tail erect, their conqueror in pursuit and biting their victim's rear where possible. Disputes are less common as the food source increases as the motive appears to be getting sufficient food rather than oppressing other devils. When quolls are eating a carcass, devils will tend to chase them away. This is a substantial problem for spotted-tailed quolls, as they kill relatively large possums and cannot finish their meal before devils arrive. In contrast, the smaller eastern quolls predate much smaller victims, and can complete feeding before devils turn up. This is seen as a possible reason for the relatively small population of spotted-tailed quolls.

A study of feeding devils identified twenty physical postures, including their characteristic vicious yawn, and eleven different vocal sounds that devils use to communicate as they feed. They usually establish dominance by sound and physical posturing, although fighting does occur. The white patches on the devil are visible to the night-vision of its colleagues. Chemical gestures are also used. Adult males are the most aggressive, and scarring is common. They can also stand on their hind legs and push each other's shoulders with their front legs and heads, similar to sumo wrestling. Torn flesh around the mouth and teeth, as well as punctures in the rump, can sometimes be observed, although these can also be inflicted during breeding fights.

Digestion is very fast in dasyurids and, for the Tasmanian devil, the few hours taken for food to pass through the small gut is a long period in comparison to some other dasyuridae. Devils are known to return to the same places to defecate, and to do so at a communal location, called a devil latrine. It is believed that the communal defecation may be a means of communication that is not well understood. Devil scats are very large compared to body size; they are on average 15 centimetres (5.9 in) long, but there have been samples that are 25 centimetres (9.8 in) in length. They are characteristically grey in colour due to digested bones, or have bone fragments included.

Owen and Pemberton believe that the relationship between Tasmanian devils and thylacines was "close and complex", as they competed directly for prey and probably also for shelter. The thylacines preyed on the devils, the devils scavenged from the thylacine's kills, and the devils ate thylacine young. Menna Jones hypothesises that the two species shared the role of apex predator
Apex predator
Apex predators are predators that have no predators of their own, residing at the top of their food chain. Zoologists define predation as the killing and consumption of another organism...

 in Tasmania. Wedge-tailed eagle
Wedge-tailed Eagle
The Wedge-tailed Eagle , sometimes known as the Eaglehawk in its native range, is the largest bird of prey in Australia, but it is also found in southern New Guinea. It has long, fairly broad wings, fully feathered legs, and an unmistakable wedge-shaped tail...

s have a similar carrion-based diet to the devils and are regarded as competitors. Quolls and devils are also seen as being in direct competition in Tasmania. Jones believed that the quoll has evolved into its current state in just 100–200 generations of around two years as determined by the equal spacing effect on the devil, the largest species, the spotted-tail quoll, and the smallest species, the eastern quoll.

Reproduction

Females start to breed when they reach sexual maturity, typically in their second year. At this point, they become fertile once a year, producing multiple ova
Ovum
An ovum is a haploid female reproductive cell or gamete. Both animals and embryophytes have ova. The term ovule is used for the young ovum of an animal, as well as the plant structure that carries the female gametophyte and egg cell and develops into a seed after fertilization...

 while in heat. As prey is most abundant in spring and early summer, the devil's reproductive cycle starts in March or April so that the end of the weaning period coincides with the maximisation of food supplies in the wild for the newly roaming young devils. Occurring in March, mating takes places in sheltered locations during both day and night. Males fight over females in the breeding season, and female devils will mate with the dominant male. Females can ovulate up to three times in a 21-day period, and copulation can take five days; one instance of a couple being in the mating den for eight days has been recorded. Devils are not monogamous
Monogamy
Monogamy /Gr. μονός+γάμος - one+marriage/ a form of marriage in which an individual has only one spouse at any one time. In current usage monogamy often refers to having one sexual partner irrespective of marriage or reproduction...

, and females will mate with several males if not guarded after mating; males also reproduce with several females during a season. Females have been shown to be selective in an attempt to ensure the best genetic offspring, for example, fighting off the advances of smaller males. Males often keep their mates in custody in the den, or take them along if they need to drink, lest they engage in infidelity. Males can produce up to 16 offspring over their lifetime, while females average four mating seasons and 12 offspring. Theoretically this means that a devil population can double on an annual basis and make the species insulated against high mortality. The pregnancy rate is high; 80% of two-year-old females were observed with newborns in their pouches during the mating season. More recent studies of breeding place the mating season between February and June, as opposed to between February and March.

Gestation
Gestation
Gestation is the carrying of an embryo or fetus inside a female viviparous animal. Mammals during pregnancy can have one or more gestations at the same time ....

 lasts 21 days, and devils give birth to 20–30 young standing up, each weighing approximately 0.18 –. At birth, the front limb has well-developed digits with claws; unlike many marsupials, the claws of baby devils are not deciduous
Deciduous
Deciduous means "falling off at maturity" or "tending to fall off", and is typically used in reference to trees or shrubs that lose their leaves seasonally, and to the shedding of other plant structures such as petals after flowering or fruit when ripe...

. As with most other marsupials, the forelimb is longer (0.26 –) than the rear limb (0.2 –), the eyes are spots, and the body is pink. There are no external ears or openings. Unusually, the gender can be determined at birth, with an external scrotum present.

Tasmanian devil young are variously called "pups", "joeys", or "imps". When the young are born, competition is fierce as they move from the vagina in a sticky flow of mucus to the pouch. Once inside the pouch, they each remain attached to a nipple for the next 100 days. The female Tasmanian devil's pouch, like that of the wombat
Wombat
Wombats are Australian marsupials; they are short-legged, muscular quadrupeds, approximately in length with a short, stubby tail. They are adaptable in their habitat tolerances, and are found in forested, mountainous, and heathland areas of south-eastern Australia, including Tasmania, as well as...

, opens to the rear, so it is physically difficult for the female to interact with young inside the pouch. Despite the large litter at birth, the female has only four nipples, so there are never more than four babies nursing in the pouch, and the older a female devil gets, the smaller her litters will become. Once the young have made contact with the nipple, it expands, resulting in the oversized nipple being firmly clamped inside the newborn and ensuring that the newborn does not fall out of the pouch. On average, more females survive than males, and up to 60% of pups do not survive to maturity.

Inside the pouch, the nourished young develop quickly. In the second week, the rhinarium
Rhinarium
The rhinarium is the moist, naked surface around the nostrils of the nose in most mammals. In actual scientific usage it is typically called a "wet snout" or "wet nose" from its moist and shiny appearance...

 becomes distinctive and heavily pigmented. At 15 days, the external parts of the ear are visible, although these are attached to the head and do not open out until the devil is around 10 weeks old. The ear begins blackening after around 40 days, when it is less than 1 cm (0.393700787401575 in) long, and by the time the ear becomes erect, it is between 1.2 centimetre. Eyelids are apparent at 16 days, whiskers at 17 days, and the lips at 20 days. The devils can make squeaking noises after eight weeks, and after around 10–11 weeks, the lips can open. Despite the formation of eyelids, they do not open for three months, although eyelashes form at around 50 days. The young—up to this point they are pink—start to grow fur at 49 days and have a full coat by 90 days. The fur growing process starts at the snout and proceeds back through the body, although the tail attains fur before the rump, which is the last part of the body to become covered. Just before the start of the furring process, the colour of the bare devil's skin will darken and become black or dark grey in the tail.

The devils have a complete set of facial vibrissae
Vibrissae
Vibrissae , or whiskers, are specialized hairs usually employed for tactile sensation. The term may also refer to the thick hairs found inside human nostrils, but these have no sensorial function and only operate as an airborne particulate barrier...

 and ulnar carpels, although it is devoid of anconeal vibrissae. During the third week, the mystacials and ulnarcarpals are the first to form. Subsequently, the infraorbital, interramal, supraorbital and submental vibrissae form. The last four typically occur between the 26th and 39th day.
Their eyes open shortly after their fur coat develops—between 87 and 93 days—and their mouths can relax their hold of the nipple at 100 days. They leave the pouch 105 days after birth, appearing as small copies of the parent and weighing around 200 grams (7.1 oz). Zoologist Eric Guiler recorded its size at this time as follows: a crown-snout length of 5.87 cm (2.3 in), tail length of 5.78 cm (2.3 in), pes length 2.94 cm (1.2 in), manus 2.3 cm (0.905511811023622 in), shank 4.16 cm (1.6 in), forearm 4.34 cm (1.7 in) and crown-rump length
Crown-rump length
Crown-rump length is the measurement of the length of human embryos and fetuses from the top of the head to the bottom of the buttocks...

 is 11.9 cm (4.7 in). During this period, the devils lengthen at a roughly linear rate.

After being ejected, the devils stay outside the pouch, but they remain in the den for around another three months, first venturing outside the den between October and December before becoming independent in January. During this transitional phase out of the pouch, the young devils are relatively safe from predation as they are generally accompanied. When the mother is hunting they can stay inside a shelter or come along, often riding on their mother's back. During this time they continue to drink their mother's milk. Female devils are occupied with raising their young for all but approximately six weeks of the year. The milk contains a higher amount of iron than the milk of placental mammals. In Guiler's 1970 study, no females died while rearing their offspring in the pouch. After leaving the pouch, the devils grow by around 0.5 kg (1.1 lb) a month until they are six months old. While most pups will survive to be weaned, Guiler reported that up to three fifths of devils do not reach maturity. As juveniles are more crepuscular than adults, their appearance in the open during summer gives the impression to humans of a population boom.

Embryonic diapause
Embryonic diapause
Delayed Implantation or Embryonic Diapause is a reproductive strategy used by approximately 100 different mammals in seven or eight different orders. In embryonic diapause, the embryo does not immediately implant in the uterus, but is maintained in a state of dormancy. Little to no development...

 does not occur.

Guiler has reported that consecutive hermaphroditism (sex change) has occurred in captured devils, while Pemberton and Mooney recorded in 2004 the case of an animal with a scrotum and a non-functional pouch.

In an apparent response to reduced competition
Intraspecific competition
Intraspecific competition is a particular form of competition in which members of the same species vie for the same resource in an ecosystem...

 caused by devil facial tumour disease
Devil facial tumour disease
Devil facial tumour disease is an aggressive non-viral transmissible parasitic cancer—which likely originated in Schwann cells—that affects Tasmanian devils. The first "official case" was described in 1996, in Australia...

, female devils in regions with the disease are now more likely to begin breeding at one year old. The disease has also led to the reproductive season being less well-defined, with births more spread out throughout the year. Litters born to mothers with DFTD have more female pups than male pups.

Conservation status

Widespread across Australia in the Pleistocene
Pleistocene
The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....

, the Tasmanian devil had declined and become restricted to three relict populations during the mid-Holocene
Holocene
The Holocene is a geological epoch which began at the end of the Pleistocene and continues to the present. The Holocene is part of the Quaternary period. Its name comes from the Greek words and , meaning "entirely recent"...

 period around 3,000 years ago. Rock art and a single fossil near Darwin point to a northern population, and remains in the southeast signify a southeastern population ranging from the mouth of the Murray River eastwards to the vicinity of Port Phillip
Port Phillip
Port Phillip Port Phillip Port Phillip (also commonly referred to as Port Phillip Bay or (locally) just The Bay, is a large bay in southern Victoria, Australia; it is the location of Melbourne. Geographically, the bay covers and the shore stretches roughly . Although it is extremely shallow for...

 in Victoria. This population had contracted from northern Victoria and New South Wales. The rising sea levels in the Holocene also cut it off from Tasmanian populations. The third population was from southwest Western Australia. Fossil evidence from this last location has proven controversial. As with many native animals, ancient devils were larger than their contemporary descendants. In 1972, Mike Archer
Mike Archer (paleontologist)
Mike Archer is an Australian paleontologist specialising in Australia vertebrates. He is a Professor at the School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales...

 and Alex Baynes found a devil tooth at the foot of a cliff near Augusta
Augusta, Western Australia
Augusta is a town on the south-west coast of Western Australia, where the Blackwood River emerges into Flinders Bay. It is the nearest town to Cape Leeuwin, on the farthest south-west corner of the Australian continent. In the 2001 census it had a population of 1,694; by 2006 the population of...

 in Western Australia and dated it to 430±160 years of age, a figure widely circulated and cited. Australian archaeologist Oliver Brown has disputed this, stating that the authors' uncertainty about the origins of the tooth casts doubts on its age, especially as other remains all date to around 3,000 years ago.

The cause of their disappearance from the mainland is unclear, but their decline seems to coincide with the expansion across the mainland of indigenous Australians and dingo
Dingo
The Australian Dingo or Warrigal is a free-roaming wild dog unique to the continent of Australia, mainly found in the outback. Its original ancestors are thought to have arrived with humans from southeast Asia thousands of years ago, when dogs were still relatively undomesticated and closer to...

es. However, whether it was direct hunting by people, competition with dingoes, changes brought about by the increasing human population, who by 3000 years ago were using all habitat types across the continent, or a combination of all three, is unknown; devils had coexisted with dingoes on the mainland for around 3000 years. Brown has also proposed that the El Niño-Southern Oscillation
El Niño-Southern Oscillation
El Niño/La Niña-Southern Oscillation, or ENSO, is a quasiperiodic climate pattern that occurs across the tropical Pacific Ocean roughly every five years...

 (ENSO) grew stronger during the Holocene, and that the devil, as a scavenger with a short life span, was highly sensitive to this. In dingo-free Tasmania, carnivorous marsupials were still active when Europeans arrived. The extermination of the thylacine
Thylacine
The thylacine or ,also ;binomial name: Thylacinus cynocephalus, Greek for "dog-headed pouched one") was the largest known carnivorous marsupial of modern times. It is commonly known as the Tasmanian tiger or the Tasmanian wolf...

 after the arrival of the Europeans is well known, but the Tasmanian devil was threatened as well.

Thylacines preyed on devils, and devils attacked thylacine young; devils may have hastened the thylacine's extinction. While the thylacine was extant, apart from hunting devils, it may also have put pressure on the devil for survival, by competing for scarce food and dens; both animals sought caves and burrows. It has been speculated that devils may have become more predacious and presided over larger home ranges to fill in the vacancy left by the thylacine.

Habitat disruption can expose dens where mothers raise their young. This increases mortality, as the mother leaves the disturbed den with her pups clinging to her back, making them more vulnerable.

Cancer in general is a common cause of death in devils. In 2008, high levels of potentially carcinogenic flame retardant chemicals were found in Tasmanian devils. Preliminary results of tests ordered by the Tasmanian government on chemicals found in fat tissue from 16 devils have revealed high levels of hexabromobiphenyl (BB153) and "reasonably high" levels of decabromodiphenyl ether
Decabromodiphenyl ether
Decabromodiphenyl ether is a brominated flame retardant which belongs to the group of polybrominated diphenyl ethers ....

 (BDE209).

Since 1999, all devils caught in the field have had ear biopsies taken, providing samples of DNA. As of September 2010, there are 5,642 samples in this collection.

Population declines

At least two major population declines, possibly due to disease epidemics, have occurred in recorded history: in 1909 and 1950. The devil was also reported as scarce in the 1850s. It is difficult to estimate the size of the devil population. In the mid-1990s, the population was estimated at 130,000–150,000 animals, but this is likely to have been an overestimate. The Tasmanian devil's population has been calculated in 2008 by Tasmania's Department of Primary Industries and Water
Department of Primary Industries and Water
The Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment is the department of the Government of Tasmania responsible for supporting primary industry development, the protection of Tasmania's natural environment, effective land and water management and the protection of Tasmania's...

 as being in the range of 10,000 to 100,000 individuals, with 20,000 to 50,000 mature individuals being likely. Experts estimate that the devil has suffered a more than 80% decline in its population since the mid-1990s and that only around 10,000–15,000 remain in the wild as of 2008.

The species was listed as vulnerable under the Tasmanian Threatened Species Protection Act 1995
Threatened Species Protection Act 1995
The Threatened Species Protection Act 1995, is an act of the Parliament of Tasmania that provides the statute relating to conservation of flora and fauna. Its long title is An Act to provide for the protection and management of threatened native flora and fauna and to enable and promote the...

in 2005 and the Australian Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 is an Act of the Parliament of Australia that provides a framework for protection of the Australian environment, including its biodiversity and its natural and culturally significant places...

in 2006, which means that it is at risk of extinction in the "medium term". The IUCN classified the Tasmanian devil in the lower risk/least concern category in 1996, but in 2009 they reclassified it as endangered.

Culling

The first Tasmanian settlers ate Tasmanian devil, which they described as tasting like veal. As it was believed devils would hunt and kill livestock, possibly due to strong imagery of packs of devils eating weak sheep, a bounty scheme to remove the devil from rural properties was introduced as early as 1830. However, Guiler's research contended that the real cause of livestock losses was poor land management policies and feral dogs. In areas where the devil is now absent, poultry has continued to be killed by quolls. In earlier times, hunting possums and wallabies for fur was a big business—more than 900,000 animals were hunted in 1923—and this resulted in a continuation of bounty hunting of devils as they were thought to be a major threat to the fur industry, even though quolls were more adept at hunting the animals in question. Over the next 100 years, trapping and poisoning brought them to the brink of extinction.

After the death of the last thylacine in 1936, the Tasmanian devil was protected by law in June 1941 and the population slowly recovered. In the 1950s, with reports of increasing numbers, some permits to capture devils were granted after complaints of livestock damage. In 1966, poisoning permits were issued although attempts to have the animal unprotected failed. During this time environmentalists also became more outspoken, particularly as scientific studies provided new data suggesting the threat of devils to livestock had been vastly exaggerated. Numbers may have peaked in the early 1970s after a population boom; in 1975 they were reported to be lighter, possibly due to overpopulation and consequent lack of food. Another report of overpopulation and livestock damage was reported in 1987. The following year, Trichinella spiralis
Trichinella spiralis
Trichinella spiralis is a nematode parasite, occurring in rats, pigs, bears and humans, and is responsible for the disease trichinosis. It is sometimes referred to as the "pork worm" due to it being found commonly in undercooked pork products...

, a parasite which kills animals and can infect humans, was found in devils and minor panic broke out before scientists assured the public that 30% of devils had it but that they could not transmit it to other species. Control permits were ended in the 1990s, but illegal killing continues to a limited extent, albeit "locally intense". This is not considered a substantial problem for the survival of the devil. Approximately 10,000 devils were killed per year in the mid 1990s.

Foxes

The decline in devil numbers is also seen as an ecological problem, since its presence in the Tasmanian forest ecosystem
Ecosystem
An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving , physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight....

 is believed to have prevented the establishment of the red fox
Red Fox
The red fox is the largest of the true foxes, as well as being the most geographically spread member of the Carnivora, being distributed across the entire northern hemisphere from the Arctic Circle to North Africa, Central America, and the steppes of Asia...

, illegally introduced to Tasmania around the turn of the 21st century, and has limited the number of foxes, feral cat
Feral cat
A feral cat is a descendant of a domesticated cat that has returned to the wild. It is distinguished from a stray cat, which is a pet cat that has been lost or abandoned, while feral cats are born in the wild; the offspring of a stray cat can be considered feral if born in the wild.In many parts of...

s and dogs because devils eat carrion that would otherwise feed these creatures, as well as killing adult foxes and young foxes in dens. Foxes are a problematic invasive species
Invasive species
"Invasive species", or invasive exotics, is a nomenclature term and categorization phrase used for flora and fauna, and for specific restoration-preservation processes in native habitats, with several definitions....

 in all other Australian states
States and territories of Australia
The Commonwealth of Australia is a union of six states and various territories. The Australian mainland is made up of five states and three territories, with the sixth state of Tasmania being made up of islands. In addition there are six island territories, known as external territories, and a...

 and, if established in Tasmania, they would both hinder the recovery of the Tasmanian devil and prey on many other vertebrate species. It is believed that Tasmanian devil young would be vulnerable to red fox predation and that devils and foxes would directly compete for habitat and dens. One common means of trying to stop the foxes is to use meat baits laced with sodium fluoroacetate. As devils and other native animals can also be attracted to the poisoned meat, which is placed inside an M-44 ejector device
M44 (cyanide device)
The M44 cyanide device is used for the elimination of suspected livestock predators, such as coyotes blamed for the loss of profits. It lures predators with an attractive smell, often from a small piece of bait, then uses a spring to propel a dosage of sodium cyanide into the predator's mouth...

, adaptations have been made to the geometry of the device so that the force and jaw geometry needed to open it fits those of the fox but not the native species. Foxes are not yet sufficiently established in Tasmania to pose a threat to the Tasmanian devil.

Road mortality

Motor vehicles are a threat to localised populations of non-abundant Tasmanian mammals, and a 2010 study showed that devils were particularly vulnerable. A study of nine species, mostly marsupials of a similar size, showed that devils were more difficult for drivers to detect and thus avoid. At high beam, devils had the lowest detection distance, 40% closer than the median. This requires a 20% reduction in speed for a motorist to avoid the devil. For low beam, the devils are the seventh worst in terms of detection distance, 16% below the median. For avoidance of roadkill to be feasible, motorists would have to drive at around half the current speed limit in rural areas. A study in the 1990s on a localised population of devils in a national park in Tasmania recorded a halving of the population after a hitherto gravel access road was upgraded, surfaced with bitumen and widened. At the same time, there was a large increase in deaths caused by vehicles along the new road; there had been none in the preceding six months. The vast majority of deaths occurred in the sealed portion of the road, believed to be due to an increase in speeds. It was also conjectured that the animals were harder to see against the dark bitumen instead of the light gravel. The devil and quoll are especially vulnerable as they often try to retrieve roadkill for food and travel along the road. To alleviate the problem, traffic slowing measures, man-made pathways that offer alternative routes for devils, education campaigns, and the installation of light reflectors to indicate oncoming vehicles have been implemented. They are credited with decreases in roadkill. Devils have often been victims of roadkill when they are retrieving other roadkill. Work by scientist Menna Jones and a group of conservation volunteers to remove dead animals from the road resulted in a significant reduction in devil traffic deaths. It was estimated that 3,392 devils, or between 3.8 and 5.7% of the population, were being killed annually by vehicles in 2001–04.

Devil facial tumour disease

First seen in 1996, devil facial tumour disease
Devil facial tumour disease
Devil facial tumour disease is an aggressive non-viral transmissible parasitic cancer—which likely originated in Schwann cells—that affects Tasmanian devils. The first "official case" was described in 1996, in Australia...

 (DFTD) has ravaged Tasmania's wild devils, and estimates of the impact range from 20% to as much as a 50% decline in the devil population, with over 65% of the state affected. The state's west coast area and far north-west are the only places where devils are tumour free. Individual devils die within months of infection.

The disease is an example of a transmissible cancer, which means that it is contagious and passed from one animal to another. Short of a cure, scientists are removing the sick animals and quarantining healthy devils in case the wild population dies out. Because Tasmanian devils have extremely low levels of genetic diversity and a chromosomal mutation unique among carnivorous mammals, they are more prone to the infectious cancer.

Wild Tasmanian devil populations are being monitored to track the spread of the disease and to identify changes in disease prevalence. Field monitoring involves trapping devils within a defined area to check for the presence of the disease and determine the number of affected animals. The same area is visited repeatedly to characterise the spread of the disease over time. So far, it has been established that the short-term effects of the disease in an area can be severe. Long-term monitoring at replicated sites will be essential to assess whether these effects remain, or whether populations can recover. Field workers are also testing the effectiveness of disease suppression by trapping and removing diseased devils. It is hoped that the removal of diseased devils from wild populations should decrease disease prevalence and allow more devils to survive beyond their juvenile years and breed.

Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, usually referred to as PNAS, is the official journal of the United States National Academy of Sciences...

on 27 June 2011, suggests picking a genetically diverse breeding stock, defined by the genome sequence, for conservation efforts. In 2011, it was estimated that it would cost $11 million to preserve the Tasmanian devil species.

Relationship with humans

At Lake Nitchie in western New South Wales
New South Wales
New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...

 in 1970, a male human skeleton wearing a necklace of 178 teeth from 49 different devils was found. The skeleton is estimated to be 7000 years old, and the necklace is believed to be much older than the skeleton. Archeologist Josephine Flood believes the devil was hunted for its teeth and that this contributed to its extinction on mainland Australia. Owen and Pemberton note that few such necklaces have been found. Middens that contain devil bones are rare—two notable examples are Devil's Lair
Devil's Lair
Devil’s Lair is a single-chamber cave with a floor area of around 200 square metres that formed in a Quaternary dune limestone of the Leeuwin–Naturaliste Ridge, 5 kilometres from the modern coastline of Western Australia...

 in the south-western part of Western Australia and Tower Hill
Tower Hill State Game Reserve
The Tower Hill State Game Reserve is located in Victoria , 275 km west of Melbourne, and 15 km north-west of Warrnambool. It encompasses the Tower Hill volcano and wetland and is 6.14 km² in area....

 in Victoria.

In Tasmania, local Aborigines and devils sheltered in the same caves. Tasmanian Aboriginal names for the devil recorded by Europeans include "tarrabah", "poirinnah", and "par-loo-mer-rer". According to Fritz Noetling, the Secretary of the Royal Society of Tasmania in 1910, there was no evidence that Tasmanian Aborigines ate any carnivorous animals. Owen and Pemberton feel this may have contributed to the devil's survival prior to European settlement.

It is a common belief that devils will eat humans. While they are known to eat the bodies of murder victims or people who have committed suicide, there are prevalent myths that it eats living humans who wander into the bush. Despite outdated beliefs and exaggerations regarding their disposition, many, although not all, devils will remain still when in the presence of a human; some will also shake nervously. It can bite and scratch out of fear when held by a human, but a firm grip will cause it to remain still. Although they can be tamed, they are asocial and are not considered appropriate as pets; they have an unpleasant odour and neither demonstrate nor respond to affection.

Until recently, the devil was not studied much by academics and naturalists. At the start of the 20th century, Hobart zoo operator Mary Roberts, who was not a trained scientist, was credited for changing people's attitudes and encouraging scientific interest in native animals such as the devil that were seen as fearsome and abhorrent, and the human perception of the animal changed. Theodore Thomson Flynn
Theodore Thomson Flynn
Theodore Thomson Flynn was an Australian biologist and a professor in both Tasmania and Ireland.He was born in Coraki, New South Wales, Australia and died in Liss, Hampshire, England...

 was the first professor of biology in Tasmania and carried out some research during the period around World War I. In the mid 1960s Professor Guiler assembled a team of researchers and started a decade of systematic fieldwork on the devil. This is seen as the start of modern scientific study of it. However, the devil was still negatively depicted, including in tourism material. The first doctorate awarded for research into the devil came in 1991.

In captivity

Early attempts to breed Tasmanian devils in captivity had limited success. The animal activist Mary Roberts, who was known for her work in presenting a less hostile image of the devil to the public and wrote about it in academic journals, bred a pair at Beaumaris Zoo which she named Billy and Truganini in 1913. However, although advised to remove Billy, Roberts found Truganini too distressed by his absence, and returned him. The first litter was presumed eaten by Billy, but a second litter in 1914 survived after Billy was removed. Roberts wrote an article on keeping and breeding the devils for the London Zoological Society. Even by 1934, successful breeding of the devil was rare. In a study on the growth of young devils in captivity, some developmental stages were very different from those reported by Guiler. The pinnae were free on day 36, and eyes opened later, on days 115–121.

In general, females tend to retain more stress after being taken into captivity than males.

A plan to make an insurance population of disease-free devils in captivity has been ongoing since 2005. As of January 2010, this population has 277 members. Devils are held at many Australian zoos and wildlife reserves.

Restrictions on the export of the Tasmanian devil means that devils can normally only be seen in captivity in Australia. They were on display in various zoos around the world from the 1850s onwards. In the 1950s several animals were given to European zoos. The last known overseas devil, Coolah, died at the Fort Wayne Children's Zoo
Fort Wayne Children's Zoo
The Fort Wayne Children's Zoo is located in Fort Wayne, Indiana, United States. Since opening in 1965, the 1,500 animal zoo has been located on in Fort Wayne's Franke Park...

, Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA, in 2004. Living to seven and a half years, he may be the oldest Tasmanian devil recorded. However, the Tasmanian government sent four devils, two male and two female, to the Copenhagen Zoo, following the birth of the first son
Prince Christian of Denmark
Prince Christian Valdemar Henri John of Denmark, Count of Monpezat , is a member of the Danish Royal Family. He is the elder son of Crown Prince Frederik and his wife, the Australian born Crown Princess Mary. He is a grandson of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and her husband Prince Henrik...

 of Frederik, Crown Prince of Denmark
Frederik, Crown Prince of Denmark
Frederik, Crown Prince of Denmark, Count of Monpezat, is the heir apparent to the throne of Denmark. Frederik is the elder son of Queen Margrethe II and Henrik, the Prince Consort.-Name and christening:...

 and his Tasmanian-born wife Mary
Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark
Mary, Crown Princess of Denmark, Countess of Monpezat, is the wife of Frederik, Crown Prince of Denmark...

 in October 2005. These are the only known devils that can be seen outside Australia. Typically, zoo devils are forced to stay awake during the day to cater to visitors, rather than following their natural nocturnal style.

There have been reports and suspicions of illegal trading in the past. In 1997, a devil turned up in Western Australia; it had not escaped from any licensed keeper. During the 1990s there were internet sites in the US that were advertising devil sales, and rumours that some US Navy personnel had tried to buy them illegally during a visit to Tasmania.

Cultural references

The devil is an iconic animal within Australia, particularly Tasmania; it is the symbol of the Tasmanian National Parks and Wildlife Service, and the former Tasmanian Australian rules football team which played in the Victorian Football League
Victorian Football League
The Victorian Football League which evolved from the former Victorian Football Association , taking its new name as from the 1996 season, is the premier Australian rules football league in Victoria The Victorian Football League (VFL) which evolved from the former Victorian Football Association...

 was known as the Devils
Tasmanian Devils Football Club
Tasmania Football Club, nicknamed The Devils, was an Australian rules football club which competed in the Victorian Football League in Australia. Formed in 2001, it was the youngest and the only non-Victorian club in the league. The club was based in the state of Tasmania at Bellerive Oval and was...

. The Hobart Devils
Hobart Devils
The Hobart Devils were an Australian basketball team that played in Hobart, Tasmania, in the National Basketball League. The team was the only representative from the state of Tasmania for the majority of its tenure, but was one of three teams that had their NBL licenses revoked by the league...

 were once part of the National Basketball League
National Basketball League (Australia)
The National Basketball League, also known as the iiNet NBL Championship for sponsorship reasons, is the pre-eminent men's professional basketball league in Australasia....

. The devil has appeared on several commemorative coins in Australia over the years. Cascade Brewery
Cascade Brewery
Cascade Brewery is the oldest continually operating brewery in Australia. It is based in South Hobart, Tasmania. The Cascade estate was founded beside the clean water of the Hobart Rivulet in 1824 by Peter Degraves, an entrepreneur who emigrated from England...

 in Tasmania sells a ginger beer
Ginger beer
Ginger beer is a carbonated drink that is flavored primarily with ginger and sweetened with sugar or artificial sweeteners.-History:Brewed ginger beer originated in England in the mid-18th century and became popular in Britain, the United States, and Canada, reaching a peak of popularity in the...

 with a Tasmanian devil on the label.

Tasmanian devils are popular with tourists, and the director of the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park has described their possible extinction as "a really significant blow for Australian and Tasmanian tourism". There has also been a multi-million dollar proposal to build a giant 19 m-high, 35 m-long devil in Launceston
Launceston, Tasmania
Launceston is a city in the north of the state of Tasmania, Australia at the junction of the North Esk and South Esk rivers where they become the Tamar River. Launceston is the second largest city in Tasmania after the state capital Hobart...

 in northern Tasmania as a tourist attraction. Devils began to be used in tourism from the 1970s, when studies showed that the animals were often the only things known about Tasmania overseas and suggested that they should therefore be the centrepiece of marketing efforts, resulting in some devils being taken on promotional tours.

With their unique personality, the Tasmanian devil has been the subject of numerous documentaries, fiction and non-fiction children's books. Royalties from Margaret Wild
Margaret Wild
Margaret Wild is an Australian author. She was born in 1948 in Eschew, a small town in South Africa, and came to Australia in 1972. She now lives in Sydney. Before becoming a fulltime writer, Margaret was a journalist for newspapers and magazines and then she worked for sixteen years as a book...

's Ruby Roars, about a Tasmanian devil, are going to research into DFTD. A 2005 Australian documentary on the Tasmanian devil, Terrors of Tasmania, directed and produced by David Parer
David Parer
David Parer is an award-winning Australian natural history film maker.Parer was conscripted into the Australian Army to go to the Vietnam War in 1970, but he entered a Masters program to study physics in the Antarctic. Parer spent the summers of 1970 and 1972 in Antarctica studying cosmic rays....

 and Elizabeth Parer-Cook, follows a female devil called Manganinnie through breeding season and the birth and rearing of her young. The documentary also looks at the effect of devil facial tumour disease and the conservation measures being taken to ensure survival of the Tasmanian devil. It has screened on television in Australia and in the United States on the National Geographic Channel
National Geographic Channel
National Geographic Channel, also commercially abbreviated and trademarked as Nat Geo, is a subscription television channel that airs non-fiction television programs produced by the National Geographic Society. Like History and the Discovery Channel, the channel features documentaries with factual...

.

The Tasmanian devil is probably best known internationally as the inspiration for the Looney Tunes cartoon character the Tasmanian Devil
Tasmanian Devil (Looney Tunes)
The Tasmanian Devil, often referred to as Taz, is an animated cartoon character featured in the Warner Bros. Looney Tunes series of cartoons. The character appeared in only five shorts before Warner Bros...

, or "Taz" in 1954. Little known at the time, the loud hyperactive cartoon character has little in common with the real life animal. After a few shorts between 1957 and 1964, the character was retired until the 1990s, when he gained his own show, Taz-Mania
Taz-Mania
Taz-Mania is a American cartoon sitcom produced by Warner Bros. Animation from 1991–1993, broadcast in the United States on Fox from 1991-1995...

, and again became popular. In 1997, a newspaper report noted that Warner Bros.
Warner Bros.
Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., also known as Warner Bros. Pictures or simply Warner Bros. , is an American producer of film and television entertainment.One of the major film studios, it is a subsidiary of Time Warner, with its headquarters in Burbank,...

 had "trademarked the character and registered the name Tasmanian Devil", and that this trademark "was policed", including an eight year legal case to allow a Tasmanian company to call a fishing lure "Tasmanian Devil". Debate followed, and a delegation from the Tasmanian government met with Warner Bros. Ray Groom
Ray Groom
Raymond John "Ray" Groom, AO is a lawyer and former Australian sportsman and politician, representing the Liberal Party in the Federal Parliament 1975–84 and the Tasmanian Parliament 1986–2001. He was a Federal and state minister for a total of 13 years...

, the Tourism Minister, later announced that a "verbal agreement" had been reached. An annual fee would be paid to Warner Bros. in return for the Government of Tasmania being able to use the image of Taz for "marketing purposes". This agreement later disappeared. In 2006, Warner Bros. permitted the Government of Tasmania to sell stuffed toys of Taz with profits funnelled into research on DFTD.

There is a DC Comics
DC Comics
DC Comics, Inc. is one of the largest and most successful companies operating in the market for American comic books and related media. It is the publishing unit of DC Entertainment a company of Warner Bros. Entertainment, which itself is owned by Time Warner...

 superhero called Tasmanian Devil
Tasmanian Devil (comics)
Tasmanian Devil is a fictional character, a superhero in the DC Comics universe. He is unrelated to the Looney Tunes character, although both characters are owned by Time Warner. He first appeared in Super Friends #7...

 who is a member of the Global Guardians
Global Guardians
The Global Guardians is a team of fictional DC Comics superheroes whose members hail from countries around the world. The concept originated in the Super Friends Saturday morning cartoon, in which several heroes were added to the Justice League to give it more ethnic diversity.-History:The...

 team. Snarl, a character in the Transformers Beast Wars
Beast Wars (IDW Publishing)
Beast Wars is a comic book series by IDW Publishing, based upon Hasbro's toy line and the original television series. The series is set in-continuity with the television series, but also uses characters that were made into toys but not featured in the series.The first miniseries, The Gathering, was...

storyline, had the alternate form of a Tasmanian devil. Tasmanian Kid from Beast Wars II
Beast Wars II
refers to the 1998 Japanese Transformers television animated series, and the movie and toyline that resulted from it. While its position in the Transformers continuity has previously been unknown, the IDW Publishing comic book mini-series Beast Wars: The Gathering and comments from Transformers...

could also transform into a Tasmanian devil.

Researchers have named a genetic-mutant mouse "the Tasmanian Devil". It is defective in the development of sensory-hair cells of the ear, leading it to abnormal behaviours including head-tossing and circling, more like the cartoon "Taz" than the actual Tasmanian Devil.

For the 2.6.29 release of the Linux kernel, Linus Torvalds temporarily replaced the Tux
Tux
Tux is a penguin character and the official mascot of the Linux kernel. Originally created as an entry to a Linux logo competition, Tux is the most commonly used icon for Linux, although different Linux distributions depict Tux in various styles. In video games featuring the character, female...

 mascot with a Tasmanian devil named Tuz, in support of the Save the Tasmanian Devil Campaign.

See also

  • Fauna of Australia
    Fauna of Australia
    The fauna of Australia consists of a huge variety of animals; some 83% of mammals, 89% of reptiles, 90% of fish and insects and 93% of amphibians that inhabit the continent are endemic to Australia...

  • Threatened fauna of Australia
  • List of adaptive radiated marsupials by form

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK