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Devils at dinner

Published: 12/10/2010

This footage of Tasmanian devils feeding at a carcass was filmed by Iain D. Williams, Anaspides Photography.

You can learn a lot about Tasmanian devils by the way they eat. Their table manners are not the best, but they do follow a certain etiquette as they work together to break up a carcass.

You’ll notice in the footage that there is a lot of lunging, growling and snapping, but look closely and you’ll see that no one is actually bitten. This posturing helps them to manage the pecking order without risking the serious damage that a bite from those sharp teeth and strong jaws could inflict.

Notice also that when a third, quite dominant, animal approaches the other animals redistribute themselves around the carcass to make sure they’re not in its personal space. The devils establish a pecking order based on the most dominant or aggressive animal. Its dominance and aggression may be based on its size, how hungry it is, or how grumpy it is.

It’s amazing to see the power of Tasmanian devils’ jaws as they crunch right through bones. They will gobble up every morsel of the carcass, including bones and fur. They have a well-deserved reputation as landscape hygienists – cleaning up tonnes of carcasses from the landscape each night.