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UCL Culture Blog


News and musings from the UCL Culture team


Specimen of the Week: Week Twenty-Nine

By Emma-Louise Nicholls, on 30 April 2012

Scary Monkey: Week Twenty-NineA favourite in my household when I was growing up, these South-Pacific mammals are pleasant once you get to known them despite their bad reputation, only really fight when it comes to women or food, and don’t reach maturity until they are almost middle aged. This week’s specimen of the week is…



***!!The Tasmanian Devil!!***


Tasmanian devil skeleton at the Grant Museum of Zoology

Tasmanian devil skeleton (Sarcophilus harrisii) at the Grant Museum of Zoology. LDUCZ-Z76

1) The Tasmanian devil gets its common name from the terror it struck into the hearts of early European settlers that were kept awake at night, cowering under their hammocks, by the nocturnal screeches that the devils emit. You can hear one here.

2) Spinning around in a whirlwind, shouting inexplicable grunts, is a behaviour not yet observed in the wild. In fact, the devil is more shy than the ball of fury its reputation would have us believe. Whilst they are the largest carnivorous marsupial, they are only particularly aggressive if threatened, or in competition with other devils for food. A lifestyle I fully empathise with.


Tasmanian devil yawning

Tasmanian devil yawning

3) Although called the Tasmanian devil, historically they also inhabited mainland Australia. However, around 3,500 years ago, Aboriginals introduced the dingo to Australia which competed with the devil. Sadly, the devil lost the battle and is now extinct in mainland Australia.

4) Devils are solitary animals though a carcass can attract large numbers. At such social events, snarling and screeching creates order out of chaos and establishes a hierarchy.


5) The scientific name of the Tasmanian devil is Sarcophilus which means meat lover. Clearly, some of the early explorers of Australia were Italian chefs.


Tasmanian devil resting

Tasmanian devil resting

One Response to “Specimen of the Week: Week Twenty-Nine”

  • 1
    Dan wrote on 12 August 2021:

    Thank you! Very interesting

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