Tasmanian Devil Now Faces Devilish Fate

The Tasmanian devil that has been popularized through a cartoon character on Looney Tunes may become extinct due to a devil facial tumor disease. This disease is engulfing the Tasmania cost while having a 100% fatality rate. This disease is killing more than 90% of devils in high-density areas and 40%-50% in low-density areas.

The Tasmanian devil once occupied Australia’s mainland but now is found only in Tasmania. The fur is mostly black and the Tasmanian devil reaches up to 25 pounds; devils usually live a nocturnal life. The devil is notorious for it’s strong bite that is up to 4 times more than a dog its size. Tasmanian devils received their name for early European settlements that thought Satan was in their backyard because of the loud, screechy scream that the devil does when they have found a carcass.

During the months of March and April the devil sex drive is on high, male devils engage in combat while the female devil chooses the winner of these battles. Afterwards the female devil allows for the male to drag her into a burrow and mate for several days, while the male force his sperm into the female every two minutes. Three weeks later the female devil gives birth to 20 to 30 embryos while only having four teats, the first baby devil to reach the teat survives while the others die. The devil has a lifespan of six years when they abruptly die, how and why is unknown.

The first sign of the disease was in 1996 where pictures were taken of a devil with lesions all over its face. Some of the theories about how this deadly disease begin is through the pesticides used in Tasmania or that a mutated cell occurred in a single animal and spread when that animal bit another. The latter being speculated because in every male or female regardless of origin the tumor make-up is identical. Devils that have not shown signs of the disease are being kept apart from wild devils to insure the livelihood of the species.