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].
Author's Note: 10 Real Animals That Seem Make-Believe
I found this article interesting to research because I like unusual-looking animals. That's evidenced by one of my several pet dogs, a basset hound-pit bull mix named Madge, who has a huge fearsome looking head and powerful jaws, attached to a long body with stubby legs.
- Animal Diversity Web. "Okapia johnstoni Okapi." Umich.edu. (Feb. 3, 2014) http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Okapia_johnstoni/
- Animal Diversity Web. "Ornithorhynchus anatinus: duck-billed platypus." Umich.edu. (Feb. 2, 2014) http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Ornithorhynchus_anatinus/
- Animal Diversity Web. "Sarcophilus harrisii, Tasmanian devil." Umich.edu. (Feb. 2, 2014) http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/accounts/Sarcophilus_harrisii/
- Arkive. "Dingiso (Dendrolagus mbaiso)." Arkive.org. 2013. (Feb. 2, 2014) http://www.arkive.org/dingiso/dendrolagus-mbaiso/
- Associated Press. "Mexico's 'water monster' the axolotl may have vanished from natural habitat." The Guardian. Jan. 29, 2014. (Feb. 2, 2014) http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jan/29/mexico-water-monster-axolotl-vanished
- Bird Life International. "Spot-bellied Eagle-owl Bubo nipalensis." Birdlife.org. (Feb. 2, 2014) http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/speciesfactsheet.php?id=2222
- Coleman, Loren and Clark, Jerome. "Cryptozoology A To Z: The Encyclopedia Of Loch Monsters Sasquatch, Chupacabras and Other Authentic Mysteries of Nature." Simon & Schuster. 1999. (Feb. 2, 2014.) http://books.google.com/books?id=4ZTgX7BZXqoC&pg=PA172&dq=mountain+gorillas+legendary+creature&hl=en&sa=X&ei=N4R1UaSVI42z0QHL_IDQBA&ved=0CD4Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=mountain%20gorillas%20legendary%20creature&f=false
- Dole, Nilma. "How Devils Cry!" Sunday Observer. Aug. 9, 2009. (Feb. 3, 2014) http://www.sundayobserver.lk/2009/08/09/spe15.asp
- Eberhart, George M. "Mysterious Creatures: N-Z." ABC-CLIO. 2002. (Feb. 2, 2014) http://books.google.com/books?id=z9gMsCUtCZUC&pg=PA126&dq=bubo+nipalensis+devil+bird&hl=en&sa=X&ei=SH51UdX6DtbI4AP4h4HwCQ&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=bubo%20nipalensis%20devil%20bird&f=false
- Encyclopaedia Britannica. "Charybdis." Brittanica.com. (Feb. 2, 2014) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/530331/Scylla-and-Charybdis
- Encyclopedia Britannica. "Dragon." Britannica.com. 2014. (Feb. 2, 2014) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/170779/dragon
- Harrison, John. "A Field Guide to the Birds of Sri Lanka." Oxford University Press. 2011. (Feb. 3, 2014) http://books.google.com/books?id=QUViK6y8RM8C&pg=PA19-IA30&dq=bubo+nipalensis+blighi&hl=en&sa=X&ei=pCDwUpffK7OzsQSnuYCQAQ&ved=0CDEQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=bubo%20nipalensis%20blighi&f=false
- Malkin, Bonnie. "Tasmanian Devils rebranded after Warner Bros cartoon 'ruins reputation'." The Telegraph. July 2, 2010. (Feb. 3, 2014) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/australiaandthepacific/australia/7868250/Tasmanian-Devils-rebranded-after-Warner-Bros-cartoon-ruins-reputation.html
- Museum of Hoaxes. "The Duckbilled Platypus, 1799." Museumofhoaxes.com. (Feb. 2, 2014) http://www.museumofhoaxes.com/hoax/archive/permalink/the_duckbilled_platypus
- National Geographic. "Golden Lion Tamarin." Nationalgeographic.com. 2014. (Feb. 2, 2014) http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/golden-lion-tamarin/
- National Geographic. "Platypus." Nationalgeographic.com. 2014. (Feb. 2, 2014) http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/platypus/
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Oarfish (Regalecus glesne Ascanius)." Noaa.gov. (Feb. 2, 2014)http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/speciesid/fish_page/fish82a.html
- Nodder, F.P. "The naturalist's miscellany - Platypus Anatinus." F. P. Nodder. June 1799. (Feb. 2, 2014) http://acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/album/ItemViewer.aspx?itemid=823415&suppress=N&imgindex=6
- Okapi Conservation Project. "History of Okapi." Okapiconservation.org. (Feb. 2, 2014) http://okapiconservation.org/okapi/natural-history/
- Roper, Clyde, and the Ocean Portal Team. "Giant Squid(Architeuthis dux)." Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Feb. 2, 2014. http://ocean.si.edu/giant-squid
- Quenqua, Douglas. "Oarfish Offer Chance to Study an Elusive Animal Long Thought a Monster." New York Times. Nov. 2, 2013. (Feb 2, 2014) http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/03/science/earth/oarfish-offer-chance-to-study-an-elusive-animal-long-thought-a-monster.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
- Schokman, Derrick. "What in Hell is the Devil Bird?" Daily News (Sri Lanka). April 27, 2002. (Feb. 2, 2014) http://archives.dailynews.lk/2002/04/27/fea06.html
- ScienceDaily. "How many species on Earth? About 8.7 million, new estimate says." ScienceDaily. Aug. 24, 2011. (Feb. 3, 2004) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110823180459.htm
- Slifkin, Natan and Slifkin, Nosson. "Sacred Monsters: Mysterious and Mythical Creatures of Scripture, Talmud and Midrash." Yashar Books. 2007. (Feb. 2, 2014) http://books.google.com/books?id=_1fdxxS26RYC&pg=PA272&dq=komodo+dragon+discovered+1912&hl=en&sa=X&ei=O211UdS3IOfK0gHWzIHYDw&ved=0CEAQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=komodo%20dragon%20discovered%201912&f=false
- Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. "Giant Squid." Ocean.si.edu. 2013. (Feb. 4, 2014) http://ocean.si.edu/giant-squid
- WWF. "How many species are we losing?" wwf.panda.org. (Feb. 3, 2014) http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/biodiversity/biodiversity/
Rabbits can be fluffy bundles of laziness or superbly rambunctious. Learn if rabbits really go crazy in March at HowStuffWorks.