This page contains Tasmanian Devil facts for kids and adults and is part of our Australian Animals series. Read on to find out about this fierce little marsupial.
A quick list of Tasmanian Devil facts for kids can be found at the end of the article.
Tasmanian Devil Facts For Kids: Introduction
It’s the middle of the night. You’re camping in a Tasmanian forest. Suddenly, you hear blood-curdling screams coming from the darkness. What could possibly be making that terrible sound?
Don’t worry, it’s not a monster, and it’s not dangerous (to humans, at least). In fact the creature responsible for the screaming – the Tasmanian Devil – has got problems of its own at the moment. In 2008, the Tasmanian Devil became listed as an endangered animal on the IUCN Red List. We'll find out more about this further down the page.
The Tasmanian Devil
The Tasmanian Devil is a carnivorous marsupial. It is famous for its loud screams and fearsome nature. Thousands of years ago it was found on mainland Australia, but today it's only found in the Australian island state of Tasmania.
This tough little creature is about the size of a small dog. Being a marsupial, the female Tasmanian Devil carries her young in a pouch.
Tasmanian Devils are also known as ‘Tassie Devils’ or just ‘Devils’. They get their name from their scary screams and aggressive behaviour.
What Does A Tasmanian Devil Look Like?
You can see what a Tasmanian Devil looks like in the video below. You can also hear its screams!
The Tasmanian Devil is a strong, barrel-shaped creature. It looks like a miniature bear, or a short-nosed dog. It has a large head with powerful jaws and sharp teeth. Its fur is thick and black, and most (but not all) Tasmanian Devils have a white stripe running across their chests.
The average length (head and body) of a Tasmanian Devil is around 65 cm (26 in). Its tail is around 25 cm (10 in). It's about the same size as a small-to-medium-sized dog.
Tasmanian Devils are nocturnal. They sleep during the day and only come out at dusk. Although they are solitary creatures (they live alone, rather than in packs), Tasmanian Devils often come together when feeding. This is when they scream at each other and fight for their share of the food.
Tasmanian Devil Diet
Tasmanian Devils are carnivores (meat eaters). They mainly eat carrion but will also hunt live prey. Their diet is varied and includes small kangaroos, wallabies, wombats, birds, and lizards.
Tasmanian Devils are also known to be cannibals, and will eat younger or weaker Tasmanian Devils if food is scarce.
Despite their bulky looks, Tasmanian Devils are good runners. Scientists think that they did more hunting before cars were introduced. This is because nowadays animals that have been knocked down by cars provide a lot of the Tasmanian Devil's food.
Tasmanian Devil Facts For Kids: Incredibly Strong Jaws!
Tasmanian Devils have incredibly strong jaws. In proportion to their body weight, they have the strongest bite of any living animal. Thanks to their powerful jaws and large, sharp teeth, Tassie Devils eat nearly all of their prey, even the bones.
Where Do Tasmanian Devils Live?
Tasmanian Devils live in Tasmania. Tasmania is a large island 150 miles south of Australia. Tasmania is a state of Australia, and is separated from the mainland by the Bass Strait.
Several thousand years ago, Tasmanian Devils were found on mainland Australia, too. It is not known exactly why they became extinct on the mainland. Some theories suggest that it was caused by the spread of people, others say it was the arrival of the dingo.
Tasmanian Devil Scientific Name & Family
The Tasmanian Devil’s scientific name is Sarcophilus harrisii. It is a member of the Dasyuridae family of marsupials. Quolls are also in the Dasyuridae family.
The Tasmanian Devil is the largest member of the Dasyuridae family, and is also the largest carnivorous marsupial. (Until its extinction in 1936, the Thylacine – or 'Tasmanian Tiger' – was the world’s largest carnivorous marsupial.)
Tasmanian Devil Disease
The Tasmanian Devil is currently threatened by a disease known as Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD). Due to the spread of the disease, the Tasmanian devil's conservation status is 'Endangered'.
The disease was only discovered in 1996, but has had a drastic effect on the Tasmanian Devil population.
Scientists estimate that the number of Tasmanian Devils in the wild may have declined by 20 – 50 percent due to the disease.
Some local populations have decreased by as much as 90%. The disease is now present in over 60% of the Tasmanian Devil’s range.
The Tasmanian Devil is in danger of becoming extinct in the wild due to DFTD.
DFTD causes ugly sores to grow on the Tasmanian Devil’s face. These sores grow so large that the animal cannot eat. The growths also spread to other parts of the animal's body.
The disease is spread by biting, and may also be spread in food that an infected Tasmanian Devil has touched. Because biting and fighting over food is a common aspect of Tasmanian Devil behaviour, the disease spreads quickly.
How To Save The Tasmanian Devil
There are several schemes to save the Tasmanian Devil in operation. These include:
- Creating new, disease-free, colonies on other islands and safe areas on the mainland. These colonies are known as ‘Insurance Populations’.
- Removing diseased animals from the natural population.
- Identifying Tasmanian Devils that are naturally resistant to DFTD, and breeding these to form a new population.
- Creating a vaccine for the disease. (This is where Tasmanian Devils are given a harmless dose of the disease, so that their bodies can ‘learn’ how to defend themselves from the ‘real’ disease).
You can find out more about the disease, and the steps being taken to prevent its spread, at the Save The Tasmanian Devil Program’s official website.
Tasmanian Devil Facts For Kids: Top Facts
- The Tasmanian Devil is the world’s biggest carnivorous marsupial.
- The Tasmanian Devil’s fur is black, and most have a stripe of white across their chests. However, around 16% of Tasmanian Devils don’t have any white on their coats.
- Tasmanian Devils were once found on mainland Australia, but are now only found in the Australian state of Tasmania. (Tasmania is an island separated from Australia by the Bass Strait).
- The name ‘Devil’ comes from the animal’s loud nocturnal screams and grunts, and from its aggressive behaviour.
- Tasmanian Devils are nicknamed ‘Tassie Devils’ or just ‘Devils’.
- The scientific name for a Tasmanian Devil is Sarcophilus harrisii. It is a member of the Dasyuridae family.
- The Tasmanian Devil has the strongest bite of any living animal for its size.
- The Tasmanian Devil’s diet consists of carrion, and also of prey that the Tasmanian Devil has caught itself. Before motor vehicles were introduced to Tasmania, Tasmanian Devils had to do more hunting. Now they can eat animals that the vehicles have hit.
- Several thousand Tasmanian Devils are also killed by cars every year. This often occurs when Tasmanian Devils are eating a creature that has already been hit by a car.
- Tasmanian Devils can run at 25 km/h for over 1 km.
- The Tasmanian Devil uses its whiskers to detect prey at night.
We hope that you have enjoyed learning these Tasmanian Devil facts for kids and adults. You can find out about more incredible Australian Animals here: Australian Animals.