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Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) Fact Sheet: Diet & Feeding

Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii)

Diet

  • Nocturnal generalist predators and specialized scavengers (Owen & Pemberton 2005; Pemberton & Renouf 1993)
    • Consume carcasses and also ambush or run down live prey (Jones 2008)
    • Eat muscles, fat, organs, intestines, ends of long bones, nasal bones in skull, other small bones
    • Leave behind skin and larger dense bones such as skull and pelvis
  • Devils hunt prety averaging around 20 kg (44.1 lb); prey items include (Owen & Pemberton 2005; Jones 2003, 2008; Jones & Barmuta 1998, 2000):
    • Medium to large-sized mammals
      • Favored foods include wombats and various macropods such as wallabies and possums
        • Adult wombats weighing up to 30 kg (66.1 lb) may be attacked (Jones 2003)
    • Some large invertebrates such as gogong moths (Agrotis infusa)

Feeding

  • Called the "Australian hyaena" for its nosy scavenging habits and its powerful bone-crushing teeth (Schaap 2002)
  • Feeding bouts at carcasses last about 34 minutes; devils eat on average every 3-8 days (Pemberton & Renouf 1993)
    • Observed in wild consuming around 2.4 kg (5.3 lb) of carcass per feeding session (Pemberton & Renouf 1993)
    • Can eat up to 40% of body weight per meal (Owen & Pemberton 2005)
  • Devils kill prey with a crushing bite to the skull, nape of neck, or chest (Jones 2003):
    • Canines pierce skull of small prey
    • Canines pierce the nape of neck, or chest in larger prey
  • In captivity at a Tasmanian wildlife center, each devil ate (Kelly 1993):
    • Every two days, the equivalent of one rabbit, one egg, a half dozen chickens
    • One day per week meat-free; ate an apple and a carrot
  • Both sexes of devils consumed more large mammals in summer and medium-sized mammals in winter (Jones & Barmuta 1998, 2000)
  • Both Tasmanian devils and Tasmanian wolves (Thylacinus) probably hunted the same sized prey (Jones 2003)

Of Diet and Dentition

Tasmanian devil showing wide mouth yawn

The teeth of a Tasmanian devil are well-adapted for scavenging on small mammal carcasses, as well as catching live prey.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Global. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Jones (2003, 2008)
Jones & Barmuta (1998, 2000)
Kelly (1993)
Owen & Pemberton (2005)
Pemberton & Renouf (1993)
Schaap (2002)

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