Oddly enough, working on phylogenies made time fly by fast enough that I didn't realize it was already Tuesday — and time for another Tuesday Tetrapod! Let's go for another non-eutherian synapsid. Enter Sarcophilus harrisii:
S. harrisii, by Flickr user ccdoh1 (CC-NC-ND).
Don't let their tiny size fool you. These guys are mean, and their common name is given for a good reason - the Tasmanian Devil. While fairly small (males average ~25 cm and 8 kg), they have attained their moniker for various reasons. When stressed, they release an odor nearly as pungent as a skunk, and their call is said to resemble a very loud and disturbing scream. Their bite pressure is the strongest of any living mammal, running at 35 MPa (the equivalent pressure of 350 m underwater). This prodigous force is used to consume the bones of carrion, which are consumed with fur, meat, and organs. While they largely scavange, Devils are capable of taking down small kangaroos.
Currently, Sarcophilus has been extirpated from mainland Australia, and their closest extant relative is the Numbat. Once relatively stable, a face cancer has infected the population of Devils and has downgraded them to "endangered". The frequent fighting between Devils allow the cancer to be spread by face wounds to different individuals, the disease has nearly a 100% mortality rate, as it interferes with feeding in late stages and leads to starvation. Their low genetic diversity helps facilitate the spread of the transmissble cancer among members. The situation is serious enough that some estimates say they may be extinct within the decade. To read more, check out the official website to save the Devil, as sponsored by the Tasmanian government and the University of Tasmania.
Information and Links
Join the fray by commenting, tracking what others have to say, or linking to it from your blog.