Tasmanian devil

a small, predacious marsupial, Sarcophilus harrisii, of Tasmania, having a black coat with white patches: its dwindling population is now confined to isolated areas.
[1885-90]

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Marsupial species (Sarcophilus harrisii or S. ursinus, family Dasyuridae), now extinct on the Australian mainland, that survives in remote rocky areas of Tasmania.

It is 30–40 in. (75–100 cm) long, with a stocky body, large head and jaws, and long bushy tail. The coat is usually black and brown with a white-marked breast. Named for its devilish expression and husky snarl, it is mainly a scavenger of wallaby and sheep carcasses but also eats beetle larvae and occasionally poultry. Its three or four young remain in the mother's pouch about five months.

Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii).

John Yates/Shostal Associates

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also called  (S. laniarius) 
 stocky carnivorous marsupial with heavy forequarters, weak hindquarters, and a large squarish head. The Tasmanian devil is named for the Australian island-state of Tasmania, its only native habitat. Vaguely bearlike in appearance and weighing up to 12 kg (26 pounds), it is 50 to 80 cm (20 to 31 inches) long and has a bushy tail about half that length. The coat is mainly black, and there is a whitish breast mark; sometimes the rump and sides are white-marked as well. Gaping jaws and strong teeth, along with its husky snarl and often bad temper, result in its devilish expression. It is mainly a scavenger, feeding on carrion such as roadkill and dead sheep. The larvae of certain beetles are its major source of live food, but it has been known to attack poultry.

      Tasmanian devils are related to quolls (catlike Australian marsupials, also called native cats (native cat)); both are classified in the family Dasyuridae (dasyurid). The teeth and jaws of Tasmanian devils are in many respects developed like those of a hyena. The pouch, when relaxed, opens backward, but, when the muscles are contracted to close it, the opening is central. During the breeding season, 20 or more eggs may be released, but most of these fail to develop. In most cases just four young are produced after a gestation period of about three weeks; these remain in the pouch for about five months. Overall, female offspring outnumber males about two to one.

      The Tasmanian devil became extinct on the Australian mainland thousands of years ago, possibly following the introduction of the dingo. In 1996 the number of Tasmanian devils living on Tasmania was estimated to be more than 150,000. From 1996 to 2007, however, this figure dwindled by more than 50 percent. Since 1996 the Tasmanian devils living on Tasmania have been threatened by a contagious cancer called devil facial tumour disease (DFTD), which produces large, often grotesque tumours around the head and mouth. The tumours grow large enough to interfere with the animal's ability to eat, resulting in starvation. This, in combination with the deleterious physiological effects of the cancer, leads to death, usually within several months of developing the disease. The origin and cause of the cancer is still of some debate; however, scientists speculate that it is caused by a unique line of infectious cells derived from Tasmanian devils and that the cells are transmitted when the animals bite one another, such as during mating battles or when scavenging for food. The Tasmanian devil's immune system does not recognize the cancer cells as foreign and therefore does not attempt to kill them. Quarantine of healthy Tasmanian devil populations, captive breeding programs, and establishment of healthy populations on nearby islands are several ways in which scientists hope to save the Tasmanian devil from extinction. The Tasmanian devil was listed as an endangered species by Tasmanian government officials in May 2008.

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Tasmanian devil — Tasmanian Tas*ma ni*an (t[a^]z*m[=a] n[i^]*an), a. Of or pertaining to Tasmania, or Van Diemen s Land. n. A native or inhabitant of Tasmania; specifically (Ethnol.), in the plural, the race of men that formerly inhabited Tasmania, but is now… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Tasmanian devil — Devil Dev il, n. [AS. de[ o]fol, de[ o]ful; akin to G. ?eufel, Goth. diaba[ u]lus; all fr. L. diabolus the devil, Gr. ? the devil, the slanderer, fr. ? to slander, calumniate, orig., to throw across; ? across + ? to throw, let fall, fall; cf. Skr …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Tasmanian devil — n. a stout, extremely voracious, flesh eating species (Sarcophilus harrisi, family Dasyuridae) of Tasmanian marsupial, having black fur with white patches and a large head …   English World dictionary

  • Tasmanian devil — so called since at least 1829, from its propensity for killing young lambs (other voracious fish or animals also have been named devil) …   Etymology dictionary

  • Tasmanian devil — ► NOUN ▪ a heavily built aggressive marsupial with a large head, powerful jaws, and mainly black fur, found only in Tasmania …   English terms dictionary

  • Tasmanian Devil — Taxobox name = Tasmanian DevilMSW3 Groves|pages=28] status = EN status system = iucn3.1 status ref = Department of Environment and Heritage. [http://www.deh.gov.au/cgi bin/sprat/public/publicthreatenedlist.pl?wanted=fauna#frogs%20that%20are%20Exti… …   Wikipedia

  • Tasmanian Devil — noun A fictional anthropomorphic Tasmanian devil who is a character of by . Syn: Tasmanian devil, Taz …   Wiktionary

  • Tasmanian devil — /tæzˌmeɪniən ˈdɛvəl/ (say taz.mayneeuhn devuhl) noun a carnivorous marsupial of the family Dasyuridae, Sarcophilus harrisii, of Tasmania having a black coat with white markings; ursine dasyure. The Tasmanian devil disappeared from the Australian… …   Australian English dictionary

  • Tasmanian devil — sterblinis velnias statusas T sritis zoologija | vardynas taksono rangas rūšis atitikmenys: lot. Sarcophilus harrisi angl. Tasmanian devil; ursine sarcophilus vok. Beutelteufel rus. сумчатый дьявол; сумчатый чёрт; тасманийский дьявол pranc.… …   Žinduolių pavadinimų žodynas

  • Tasmanian devil — noun Date: circa 1867 a heavily built carnivorous nocturnal Tasmanian marsupial (Sarcophilus harrisii) that is about the size of a badger and has powerful jaws and teeth and a chiefly black coat marked with white on the chest …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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