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Discovery Magazine 4/1/2002

Terror From Tasmania

On a small island southeast of Australia, a dark-furred mammal with large teeth and a ferocious appetite and about the size of a small dog stalks the land, the Tasmanian devil. Most of us have seen the cartoon character Taz on Bugs Bunny. He whirls about, devouring everything in sight. This whirling cartoon is based on a very real creature that has some interesting traits.

The Tasmanian devil has mostly black fur, with a white stripe sometimes on its chest or hind parts. An average adult weighs about 24 pounds and can get about 1 foot tall and 2 feet long. It is nocturnal, which means that it hunts and moves at night. During a single night’s hunting, the little creature may travel as many as ten miles. It is shy, and rarely seen in the wild by people. When it gets nervous, it lets off a strong odor and will “yawn” to show its mouth full of teeth.

You might be wondering where it got its name? It makes loud, strange, screeching, howling, and growling sounds. Because of these eerie sounds, early settlers in Tasmania gave the creature its name.

Best known for its eating habits, the Tasmanian devil has sharp, powerful teeth. In fact, its powerful jaws are as strong as an animal four times its size. When one of these little critters starts eating, look out! They will eat the bones, feet, and fur of animals they find dead or kill themselves. It has been reported that one family of devils devoured an entire horse, leaving only the skull and tail. Since they can eat almost half of their body weight in 30 minutes (that would be like a 100-pound man eating a 50-pound steak), they make quick work of most meals.

Yet, as vicious as these animals seem, they are really not that bad. They help farmers by eating mice and other rodents. As scavengers, they “clean up” the carcasses of dead animals, and they tame rather easily. When we look at the Tasmanian devil, we see God’s wonderful design.

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