6 Amazing Facts About the Tasmanian Devil

Learn six cool facts about the Tasmanian devil. You’ve probably seen this spunky marsupial on “Looney Tunes”!

Jul 1, 2024byMichael C.

amazing facts about the tasmanian devil


Did you know that the Tasmanian devil is an actual animal? These cool creatures can be found mainly on the island of Tasmania. Read on to learn more about these ravenous yet fascinating animals!


1. It’s the Largest Living Carnivorous Marsupial

taz devil looking off to side
Image credit: Devil Ark


The Tasmanian devil holds the record for being the largest carnivorous marsupial alive today after the unfortunate demise of its relative the thylacine (or the Tasmanian tiger/wolf). Averaging the size of a housecat (reaching around two feet in length), males are slightly larger than females. In the past, relatives of the Tasmanian devil reached larger and heavier sizes. One recently extinct species, Sarcophilus lanarius, was around 15% larger and 50% heavier than the modern-day Tasmanian devil.


The Tasmanian devil also holds the record for having the strongest bite force of any mammal its size. This species is a scavenger by nature, and having powerful jaws allows it to crush bones and tear meat efficiently. 


2. They Once Lived Throughout Mainland Australia

taz devil looking ahead
Image credit: Getty Images


As its namesake goes, the Tasmanian devil is native only to Tasmania and a small part of New South Wales (where it has been reintroduced). However, these animals were once widespread throughout Australia until their disappearance around 3,000 years ago. 


Reasons for its disappearance have been debated, though either humans, dingoes, or climate change are to blame. Fossil remains found suggest that the mainland population was slightly larger than those living today. In 2020, 26 captive-bred devils have been released in Barrington Wildlife Sanctuary, a nature preserve in New South Wales, and the population has flourished since.


3. Newborn Devils Are About Raisin-Sized

two baby taz devils
Image credit: Devil Ark


As mentioned earlier, the Tasmanian devil is a marsupial just like the kangaroo and the koala. Like its cousins, the devil gives birth to undeveloped, helpless young. The newborns (called joeys or pups) are very tiny, around the size of a raisin. As soon as they are born, they instinctively crawl into their mother’s pouch and attach their mouths to a nipple, rapidly feeding on milk and growing inside for around 100 days. 


Even though the mother gives birth to around 20 to 30 joeys, she only has four nipples and therefore can only support a rather small litter. Any remaining joeys are usually eaten by the mother herself. Needless to say, these animals are terrible mothers! 


4. Tasmanian Devils Are Noisy Creatures

taz devil screaming to left
Image credit: San Diego Zoo


The Tasmanian devil is a very noisy animal. Though usually solitary, devils sometimes congregate around carcasses or interact with each other in other ways. To communicate, this creature produces a variety of growls, screams, and grunts. 


Tasmanian devils are known for their loud, raucous sounds during feeding time. The name “devil” was given to them by European settlers who believed their sounds to be “unearthly” and “demonic”, often heard at night. These marsupials also vocalize at potential threats, such as predators, to scare them away. Besides vocalizing, Tasmanian devils also communicate by yawning and tail-raising. 


5. Tasmanian Devils Glow Under Ultraviolet Light

Tasmanian Devil
Image credit: Toledo Zoo


A recent research study conducted at the Toledo Zoo has discovered that Tasmanian devils glow under UV light. This phenomenon is known as biofluorescence and has also been recently discovered in other species ranging from birds to platypuses. In this case, the facial areas including the eyes, ears, and nose glow blue. Scientists are currently unsure why Tasmanian devils are biofluorescent; more research is needed to learn why. 


6. Tasmanian Devils Need Our Help

two taz devils
Image credit: Columbus Zoo


Sadly, Tasmanian devils are currently listed as an endangered species. Historically, they were thought to be a threat to livestock and therefore ruthlessly persecuted. This was grossly exaggerated as feral dogs were the main culprits of livestock casualties. Devils were also seen as a threat to the fur industry, erroneously believed to actively hunt wallabies and possums (whose fur was sought after). The Tasmanian government even placed bounties on the marsupials. Combined with habitat loss, the Tasmanian devil was on the brink of extinction.


Following the extinction of the thylacine, the Tasmanian devil was finally protected in 1941, but major threats still harm this species to this day. Their tendency to feast on roadkill puts them at high risk for vehicle collisions themselves. Roadkill mortalities are rather high in the Tasmanian devil. The largest threat for this species, however, is a highly contagious cancer known as devil facial tumor disease (DFTD)


tas devil screaming
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons


DFTD is a non-viral cancer that causes affected devils to form large growths around their faces, which is believed to spread either from biting or through infected carcasses. The cancer itself also spreads to various organs, such as the lungs and heart. Efforts to create a vaccine are ongoing with promising results, but DFTD remains a serious threat to the devil’s survival.


Public perception of the Tasmanian devil has improved significantly. Unfortunately, some people still view them as foul and vile vermin. Playing important ecological roles as scavengers, devils keep their environments clean and free of disease. Tasmanian devils are also known to control feral cats, indirectly protecting other native wildlife. 


Raising awareness of the Tasmanian devil can help this species, along with combatting misinformation. As many people are unaware this species is real, you can educate friends and family that the Tasmanian devil isn’t just a cartoon character. Supporting reputable zoos and organizations involved in conservation and research is another way to help this imperiled animal.

Michael C.
byMichael C.

Michael holds a BS degree in Fisheries and Wildlife from Michigan State University. He formerly worked at a pet store as an animal care associate and is the former president of the MSU Herpetological Society. Michael currently owns three snakes (a corn snake, a Kenyan sand boa, and a checkered garter snake) and a leopard gecko. Interests include almost anything animal-related. Michael enjoys drawing, gaming, and having fun in his free time.