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Additional info for Tasmanian devil. A unique and threatened animal
Earlier in his career he had published studies of the behaviour of Tasmanian devils, and while in Tasmania he discussed with zoologists the concept of the carnivore guild and its functioning as a unit. His seminal thoughts and discussions contributed to the work and management directions which followed. 15 Menna Jones’ resulting guild-structure findings derive from dentition studies carried out in the field and on skulls held in Australian collections. She showed that the relationship between devils and quolls evolved as one of direct competition.
Dating these sites is difficult, but the species certainly was present between 70 000 and 50 000 years ago. The Mammoth Cave site in Western Australia, where S. laniarius has also been found, may be as old as 70 000 years. The Devil’s Lair cave deposit in Western Australia is dated at 11 000 to 30 000 years old and shows evidence of both devils and Aboriginal inhabitants. More recent deposits from the Holocene Epoch (the past 10 000– 11 000 years) are found throughout Australia, including on Flinders Island in Bass Strait.
In pre-European Tasmania, might the devil have had such a relationship with the indigenous humans? In a role not dissimilar to that historically attributed to devils—that they followed thylacines and ate the remains of their prey—hyaenas were incorrectly portrayed as bickering scavengers cleaning up after lion kills. Although scavenging is important, all three species of hyaena are active, highly successful pursuit predators. And like devils, they will opportunistically eat their own. Despite the relationship between the Tasmanian devil and the thylacine, the devil is taxonomically closer to the other members of the Dasyuridae family, the quolls and the tiny mice-like marsupials—dibblers, antechinuses, kowaris, mulgaras, kalutas, phascogales, planigales, ningauis, dunnarts and kultarrs.
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