Tasmanian Devil Definition | Characteristics & Facts

Tasmanian devil

tasmanian devil

Tasmanian Devil Definition

It is the largest surviving carnivorous marsupial and is known for its ferocious and aggressive behavior, especially when feeding or feeling threatened.

Tasmanian Devil General Characteristics & Facts


Tasmanian devils are the largest surviving carnivorous marsupials. They typically measure about 20 to 31 inches (50 to 80 centimeters) in length, excluding their tail, which adds another 9 to 12 inches (23 to 30 centimeters).


Adult Tasmanian devils can weigh between 9 to 26 pounds (4 to 12 kilograms), with males being generally larger and heavier than females.


They have a mostly black coat with distinctive white markings on their chest and rump. Some individuals may have a lighter tan color around their neck and shoulders.

Powerful Jaws

Tasmanian devils have an incredibly strong bite due to their powerful jaws and sharp teeth. Their bite is strong enough to crush bones, allowing them to consume the entire carcass of their prey, including fur and bones.

Nocturnal Behavior

Tasmanian devils are primarily nocturnal animals, meaning they are most active during the night and rest during the day in dens or burrows.

Solitary and Territorial

They are mostly solitary creatures, except during the mating season.


Female Tasmanian devils have a unique reproductive system. They have a bifurcated reproductive tract with two uteri and two vaginas, allowing them to give birth to relatively large litters of up to 50 offspring (called joeys). However, only a few of these joeys will survive, as the mother has limited teats to nurse them.

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Physical Characteristics of Tasmanian Devils

  • Size: Tasmanian devils are medium-sized marsupials, with a body length (excluding the tail) ranging from 20 to 31 inches (50 to 80 centimeters).
  • Weight: Adult Tasmanian devils typically weigh between 9 to 26 pounds (4 to 12 kilograms), with males generally being larger and heavier than females.
  • Body Shape: They have a stocky and muscular build with short legs, making them well-adapted for their scavenging and hunting behaviors.
  • Fur: Tasmanian devils have coarse black fur covering their body, with distinct white markings on their chest and rump. Some individuals may have a lighter tan coloration around their neck and shoulders.
  • Head: Their head is relatively large, and they have a wide jaw with powerful muscles that allow them to deliver a strong bite.
  • Ears and Eyes: Tasmanian devils have small, rounded ears and dark brown to black eyes, which are well-suited for their nocturnal lifestyle.
  • Tail: Their tail is thick and muscular, similar in color to the body, and measures about 9 to 12 inches (23 to 30 centimeters) in length.
  • Feet and Claws: Tasmanian devils have five toes on their front feet and four on their hind feet. Their front feet are equipped with sharp claws that are used for digging burrows and capturing prey.
  • Facial Markings: The distinctive white markings on their chest and rump form a “T” shape, contributing to their name “Tasmanian devil.”
  • Nocturnal Behavior: Tasmanian devils are primarily nocturnal, meaning they are most active during the night and rest during the day in dens or burrows.

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Scientific Classification of a Tasmanian devil

Kingdom: Animalia (Animals)

Phylum: Chordata (Chordates)

Class: Mammalia (Mammals)

Infraclass: Marsupialia (Marsupials)

Order: Dasyuromorphia (Dasyuromorphs)

Family: Dasyuridae (Dasyurids)

Genus: Sarcophilus

Species: Sarcophilus harrisii

Key locations of a Tasmanian devil

  1. Tasmania
  2. Australia

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Tasmanian Devil FAQs

What does the Tasmanian devil eat?

  1. Carrion: They primarily feed on dead animals, including roadkill and other carcasses they come across.
  2. Small Mammals: Tasmanian devils will hunt and consume small mammals such as possums, wallabies, and wombats.
  3. Birds: They may prey on birds, particularly when they come across injured or dead ones.
  4. Insects: Insects, such as beetles and insects’ larvae, are also a part of their diet.
  5. Reptiles: On occasion, Tasmanian devils may consume reptiles like snakes and lizards.
  6. Fruits: While they are primarily carnivores, they may also eat fruits, especially when available in their diet.

Are Tasmanian devils endangered?

Yes, Tasmanian devils are considered endangered. The primary threat to their population is a contagious facial tumor disease known as Devil Facial Tumor Disease (DFTD). This disease has severely impacted their numbers, causing significant population declines in certain regions.

Do Tasmanian devils have any unique adaptations?

Yes, Tasmanian devils have several unique adaptations. They have a powerful jaw with strong teeth, enabling them to deliver a crushing bite and consume the entirety of their prey, including bones and fur. Their nocturnal behavior helps them avoid competition with other diurnal predators, and their keen sense of smell allows them to locate food, even when it’s buried or hidden.

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