Surely many have heard of such a unique animal as the Tasmanian devil. Its mystical, scary and menacing name speaks for itself. What kind of lifestyle does he lead? What habits does he have? Is his character really sinister and diabolical? Let's try to understand all this in detail and understand whether this unusual animal justifies its not very pleasant nickname.
Origin of the species and description
The Tasmanian devil is also called the marsupial devil. This mammal belongs to the family of predatory marsupials and the genus of marsupial devils (Sarcophilus), of which it is the only representative. The question involuntarily arises: “Why did this beast deserve such an impartial name?”. So it was first named by the colonists who arrived in Tasmania from Europe. The animal frightened them with its heartbreaking, otherworldly and terrifying screams, which is why it got this nickname and, as it turned out later, not in vain. The devil's temper is indeed ferocious, and a large mouth with sharp fangs and black hair only reinforce people's opinion about him. The name of the genus in Latin translates as “lover of the flesh.”
Video: Tasmanian devil
In general, with a more thorough study and a series of genetic analyzes, it turned out that marsupial martens (quolls) are close relatives of the devil, and there is a more distant family relationship with thylacines (marsupial wolves), which are now extinct. For the first time this species of animal was scientifically described in the early nineteenth century, and in 1841 the mammal received its current name and was classified as the only animal representing the family of carnivorous marsupials of Australia.
Interesting fact : The Tasmanian devil was recognized as the largest marsupial predator on the entire planet, this has official confirmation.
The dimensions of the marsupial devil are similar to those of a small dog, the height of the animal ranges from 24 to 30 cm, the length of the body is from 50 to 80 cm, and the weight varies from 10 to 12 kg. Outwardly, the devil really looks like a dog or a miniature bear, the shape of the eyes and muzzle resemble a koala. In general, looking at such a marsupial trait, there is no feeling of fear, but, on the contrary, it may seem to many happy and cute.
Appearance and features
With the size of the marsupial devil, everything is clear, but it is worth noting that the female is much smaller than the male. It is also distinguished by the presence of a skin fold-bag, which opens back and has four nipples hidden in it. In general, the predator has a fairly dense and stocky physique. It seems that he is clumsy and clumsy, but this is not at all the case, the devil is very dexterous, strong and muscular. The limbs of the animal are not long, the front legs are slightly longer than the hind legs, which is very unusual for marsupials. The front legs of the devil are five-fingered, one finger is located farther from the others, so that it is more convenient to hold the prey. There is no first finger on the hind limbs, and the sharp and powerful claws of the animal skillfully tear the flesh.
Compared to the whole body, the head is quite large, has a slightly blunt muzzle and small black eyes. The ears of the animal are rounded and rather neat, they stand out with their pink color on a black background. Noticeable and long vibrissae frame the devilish muzzle, so the scent of the predator is simply excellent. The coat of the marsupial devil is short and black, only in the region of the sternum and above the tail oblong white spots stand out brightly, small white blotches can also appear on the sides.
Interesting fact: The condition of the devil's tail indicates the health of the animal. The tail is used as a store of fat reserves. If he is well-fed and dressed in a black fur coat, then the beast feels great.
It is not for nothing that the marsupial features a large head, because it has well-developed and powerful jaws that protrude formidable and invincible weapon. Just one devilish bite pierces through the spine or skull of the victim. Molar teeth, like millstones, crush even thick bones.
Where does the Tasmanian devil live?
Judging by the name of the predator, it is not difficult to understand where he has a permanent residence permit. The marsupial devil is endemic to the island of Tasmania, i.e. it is impossible to meet him in natural conditions anywhere but this place. Previously, the predator inhabited the Australian continent and was quite widespread there, as the situation was about six centuries ago, now the marsupial devil does not exist in Australia, a number of negative anthropogenic factors led to this sad consequence.
Firstly, the reason for the disappearance of the Tasmanian devil was the importation of a wild dingo dog to Australia, which began an active hunt for a marsupial predator, greatly thinning out its livestock. Secondly, people began to ruthlessly destroy the devil because of his predatory raids on chicken coops and bandit attacks on lambs. So the marsupial devil was completely exterminated, and disappeared from the Australian continent. It’s good that they didn’t have time to kill him on Tasmanian soil, but, having realized it, they passed a law imposing a strict ban on any hunting activities regarding this unique animal.
At the present time, animals prefer to live in the north, west and central part of Tasmania, keeping away from the person who carries the danger.
- sheep pasture areas;
- mountainous rugged terrain.
Photo: Tasmanian Devil in Australia
Tasmanian devils are very greedy for food and very gluttonous. At a time, they eat food that makes up fifteen percent of their own weight, and if they get too hungry, this percentage can reach up to forty.
Their daily diet includes:
- small mammals;
- all kinds of insects;
As far as hunting methods are concerned, the devil uses the fail-safe method of biting the skull or spine, which causes the victim to immobilize. Small-sized devils are able to cope with large, but weak or sick animals. They often pursue herds of sheep and cows, revealing a weak link in them. The sharpest eyesight and scent capture everything around, which helps a lot to find food.
Carrion attracts animals with its odor, so many marsupials converge on a large fallen carcass, between which bloody skirmishes often ensue because of the division. During the feast, wild and loud cries of devils are heard everywhere, butchering large carcasses. Almost nothing remains of a delicious meal, not only the flesh is eaten, but also the skin along with the fur, all the insides and even the bones.
An interesting fact: Devils in food are very unpretentious and illegible, therefore, along with carrion, they can also eat its harness, pieces of cloth, plastic tags that mark cows and sheep, collars.
Tasmanian devils are happy to snack on wild rabbits, baby kangaroos, kangaroo rats, wombats, wallabies. Robbers are able to take food from the marsupial marten, they eat up the remnants of the meal of larger predators, they can climb trees and rocks, where they are engaged in the destruction of bird nests. Present in the diabolical menu and food of plant origin, animals can eat the fruits, roots and tubers of some plants, they will not refuse juicy fruits. When there is not enough food, the tail stores of nutrients and fat save the devils.
Interesting fact: In difficult, hungry times, the marsupial devil is quite capable of dining on his weakened fellow, so cannibalism in their environment takes place.
Peculiarities of character and lifestyle
The marsupial devil prefers a solitary existence and is not tied to a specific territory, its habitats can overlap with areas of other relatives, there are usually no land disputes among these animals, all conflicts occur either due to the division of large prey, or because beautiful devilish sex. Marsupials are active at night, and in the daytime they hide in their shelters, which they equip in caves, low hollows, dense shrubs, and burrows. For security purposes, there are several such secluded dwellings at once, then they often go to offspring.
As already noted, the marsupial devil has damn good hearing, sight and smell, they can swim perfectly, but they do it only when necessary. Young people can deftly conquer tree tops, which the older generation is incapable of. In times of famine, this ability to climb in the tree crown saves the young from their own adult tribesmen.
Marsupial devils are amazingly clean, they can lick themselves for hours so that there is no foreign smell that interferes with hunting. It has been noticed that the animals fold their forelimbs in the shape of a bucket in order to scoop up water and wash their faces and breasts, such water procedures are regular in animals.
Animals show particular ferocity, aggressiveness and dexterity when they are in danger Or, conversely, they attack. The nature of animals is quite unbridled and robbery, and their vocal range makes you shudder. From the animals you can hear wheezing, and coughing, and an ominous devilish roar, and heartbreaking loud exclamations heard from many kilometers away.
Interesting fact: Zoologists have recorded 20 varieties of sound signals emitted by Tasmanian devils.
Social structure and reproduction
Tasmanian devils become sexually mature closer to the age of two. And their mating season falls on March or April time. When short-term unions are formed, there is no smell of courtship here, the animals behave very angrily and pugnaciously. Conflicts often break out between males. After copulation, the angry female immediately drives the gentleman home to prepare for childbirth alone.
An interesting fact: Scientists have found that marsupial devils have recently begun to breed year-round, apparently, this is how animals try to replenish their few ranks.
The gestation period lasts about three weeks, in a litter there are about thirty crumbs, the size of which is comparable to the fruit of a cherry. Almost immediately, they rush into the mother's pouch, holding on to the fur and crawling inside.
Kutats are born not only microscopic, but blind and naked, only at the age of three months they begin to see clearly and acquire a black fur coat, and closer to four months old they begin to crawl out of the bag, then their weight reaches two hundred grams. Until the age of eight months, the mother treats them with breast milk, then they switch to an adult diet. In December, the young gain full independence, leaving for an adult and independent life. It should be noted that the duration of the devil's life is about seven or eight years.
Natural enemies of the Tasmanian devil
Apparently, due to its harsh and fighting disposition, the marsupial devil does not have many enemies in the wild.
The ill-wishers include:
- dingo dogs;
- birds of prey.
As for birds, they are terrible only for young animals, they cannot overcome an adult devil. The fox was brought to Tasmania illegally and immediately became a food competitor and enemy of the devil. From the dingo, the animal moved to live in those places where the dogs are not comfortable. Seemingly sluggish marsupial devil, in moments of danger, groups up with lightning speed and turns into a dexterous, muscular and dodgy predator that can reach speeds of up to 13 kilometers per hour. The Tasmanian also has another defense mechanism – this is a fetid secret released during a fright, this smell is much more concentrated and odorous than that of skunks. Marsupial devils act as their own enemies, because often with a lack of food, mature individuals eat young animals.
Marsupial predators also suffer from a terrible disease that causes swelling of the face, it is incurable and its epidemics are repeated at regular intervals every 77 years, taking away a huge number of devilish lives. Scientists still cannot figure out why this is happening.
Man can also be counted among the enemies of the marsupial devil, because it is because of him that this amazing Tasmanian inhabitant almost disappeared from the face of the earth. Of course, now this animal is heavily guarded, its numbers have increased slightly and become stable, but, anyway, the livestock suffered huge damage from human hands.
Population and species status
As already mentioned, the marsupial devil, once widely settled throughout Australia, completely disappeared from this mainland, remaining endemic to the island of Tasmania. The number of the animal on the island has also declined catastrophically due to barbaric and thoughtless human actions, so the Australian authorities in 1941 introduced the strictest ban on any hunting activities regarding this animal. Constant outbreaks of terrible epidemics, the causes of which have not yet been clarified, have claimed many lives of the Tasmanian devils, the last peak of the incidence occurred in 1995, reducing the number of the devil's population by eighty percent, before that the epidemic was in 1950.
An interesting fact: The female has only four nipples, so only a small part of the offspring survive, she herself eats the rest, as natural selection dictates.
The population of the Tasmanian devil remains small even today, but protective measures have had their effect, therefore, very slowly and gradually, but its population has increased and gained some stability, which is at least a little, but comforting. If earlier this animal species was considered endangered, now environmental organizations want to give it the status of vulnerable. This issue has not yet been finally resolved, but one thing is clear – this animal still needs special strict protective measures, so you should treat it with great care and care, and it’s better not to interfere in the wild devilish life at all.
Interesting fact: The marsupial devil holds the record for the power of its bite, which, compared to its body weight, is considered the strongest among all mammals.
Tasmanian Devil Conservation
The number of Tasmanian devils is still small, although over the past few years it has gained stability. The strictest hunting ban and the ban on the export of these amazing animals had their positive effects. Previously, a huge number of animals were destroyed by man due to the fact that the devil attacked livestock. Then people began to eat its meat, which they also liked, because of which the number of animals was enormously reduced, and it completely disappeared from the Australian continent.
Now, due to the security measures taken and a number of There are no laws to hunt marsupials, and it is forbidden to take them out of the island. One of the most dangerous enemies of the marsupial devil is a terrible disease for which no cure has yet been found. This terrible form of cancer reduced the number of animals by almost half over a fifteen-year period.
The Tasmanian devil is listed in the international Red Book. It has been designated as endangered by the Australian authorities. According to estimates in 2006, the number of animals was only 80,000 individuals, although in the 90s of the last century there were about 140,000 of them. The fault is a dangerous and contagious cancer. Zoologists are sounding the alarm, but they still cannot cope with the disease. One of the protective measures is the creation of special isolated areas where uninfected animals are relocated, some of the animals were taken to the Australian mainland itself. It remains to be hoped that the cause of this dangerous disease will be found, and, most importantly, that people will find effective methods of dealing with it.
In the end, I would like to add that the Tasmanian devil is very amazing and unique in its kind, its study is up to is still ongoing, because it is of unprecedented interest, both among scientists and ordinary people. The marsupial devil can be called one of the symbols of the Australian continent. Despite its ferocity and anger, the animal is damn attractive and good, has gained immense popularity and love among tourists from all over the world.