Tasmanian devil

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Tasmanian devil,

extremely voracious marsupialmarsupial
, member of the order Marsupialia, or pouched mammals. With the exception of the New World opossums and an obscure S American family (Caenolestidae), marsupials are now found only in Australia, Tasmania, New Guinea, and a few adjacent islands.
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, or pouched mammal, of the dasyuredasyure
, name for several small, predatory marsupials, or pouched mammals, of the family Dasyuridea, found in Australia, Tasmania, and New Guinea. Typical dasyures, known in Australia as native cats, are furry animals with large eyes, pointed snouts, and long tails.
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 family, now found only on the island of Tasmania. The Tasmanian devil, Sarcophilus harrisi, formerly found also in Australia, is about 2 ft (60 cm) long, excluding the 12-in. (30-cm) tail. It has a large head, with powerful jaws, and weak hindquarters. Its blackish fur is marked with white patches on the throat, on each side, and on the rump. The animal has a fierce appearance. It is very strong for its size and preys on animals larger than itself, such as small kangaroos, as well as on rodents, lizards, and other small animals. It lives in burrows in rocky areas.

Like the related thylacinethylacine
or Tasmanian wolf,
carnivorous marsupial, or pouched mammal, of New Guinea, Australia, and Tasmania, presumed extinct since 1936. The thylacine is often cited as an example of convergent evolution: It was superficially quite similar to a wolf or dog, although
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, or Tasmanian wolf, the Tasmanian devil was relentlessly hunted because of its inroads on domestic livestock and poultry. Although it survived in sizable numbers in remote areas of the island, it became threatened by fatal a contagious facial cancer that spread steadily and decimated infected populations beginning in the late 1990s. In 2009 the Tasmanian devil was officially declared endangered. A lack of genetic diversity in the marsupial facilitated the cancer's spread; the more recent discovery of a developing tolerance and resistance in some animals has raised hopes for the species. Efforts also are being made to establish a sizable disease-free population on the Australian mainland.

The Tasmanian devil is classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Marsupialia, family Dasyuridae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved. www.cc.columbia.edu/cu/cup/
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Tasmanian Devil


(Sarcophilus harrisii), a mammal of the family Dasyuridae. The body length varies from 52 to 80 cm, and the tail length, from 23 to 30 cm. The head is disproportionately large. The body is covered with short black hairs. There are white patches on the snout, chest, and sides. The pouch opens posteriorly. The Tasmanian devil is distributed in Tasmania, where it inhabits forests. A nocturnal animal, it shelters during the day in rock crevices and in cavities beneath fallen trees. It feeds on a variety of vertebrates. It reproduces once a year, producing up to four young per litter. Its numbers are few.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

Tasmanian devil

a small ferocious carnivorous marsupial, Sarcophilus harrisi, of Tasmania, having black fur with pale markings, strong jaws, and short legs: family Dasyuridae
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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