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How Tazzies got the 'Devil' in their name

They used to live on the Australian mainland over 3,000 years ago, but now they don’t. Nowadays, their only home is the small island state of Tasmania, where predators are few and wilderness and eucalyptus trees are a plenty. Known as Tasmanian devils, the locals down under affectionately refer to their state mammal as 'Tazzies'.

Tasmanian Devil from Tasmania
Karin Leperi

But they haven’t always been as loved as they are now, and some of that love may be because they are an endangered species on the verge of extinction. It wasn't too long ago when Tasmanians witnessed the last Tasmanian tiger die in captivity in 1936, a distant relative of the Tasmanian devil since both are carnivorous marsupials.

A muscular, stocky animal about the size of a large raccoon, Tasmanian devils are known for their ear-piercing screech, almost like the wail of the devil himself. In fact, that is how this solitary marsupial got its name: the devilish scream it makes – usually at night because they are nocturnal – reminded many early Tasmanian settlers and farmers of the devil. Combine their shrill shriek with bad attitude, sharp teeth, and powerful mouths that crush the skulls of their prey, and it’s easy to see why this mammal became associated with an evil, supernatural being.

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