Some might think the Tasmanian devil is a fictional creature, cooked up by an imaginative animator for the Warner Bros. "Looney Tunes" shorts. But it's actually a real animal, Sarcophilus harrisii, which is indigenous to Tasmania, an island to the south of the Australian mainland.
The size of Tasmanian devils varies considerably, depending on diet, habitat and age, but large males can grow as long as 2.5 feet (80 centimeters) and weigh as much as 26 pounds (12 kilograms). The devil is a stocky animal with brownish-black fur, white throat patches and spots on its sides and backside, pink snout and a big powerful head and jaw. The latter enables the scavenger to gnaw on the already dead carcasses of wombats, wallabies, sheep and rabbits, though devils also will eat insects, larvae, snakes and vegetation when the opportunity presents itself.
Contrary to its cartoon counterpart, the actual Tasmanian devil is a slow, lumbering creature, not a frenetic whirlwind, though it is known to get loud and rowdy when eating in groups [source: ADW]. And despite its fearsome reputation, conservationists are worried about the devils' long-term survival, because they're threatened by a contagious facial cancer that killed off 60 percent of the population between 2000 and 2010 [source: Malkin].