Our flagship research program is based in Australia's island state of Tasmania, which is home to several marsupial carnivore species. We focus our research on the largest three species, all of which are threatened.
The devil is the largest native terrestrial predator in Tasmania, and the largest surviving marsupial carnivore species in the world. It is both a scavenger and a hunter, and was persecuted in the 19th and early 20th centuries because it was considered a threat to poultry and lambs. With protected status, its numbers recovered and by the late 20th century the population was believed to be at an all-time high. That changed in the mid-1990s, when a disease called Devil Facial Tumor Disease emerged in the population. Numbers declined rapidly, and the devil is now classified as endangered.
The spotted-tailed quoll, also known as the tiger quoll, is the second-largest marsupial carnivore species. It occurs both on the Australian mainland, where it is listed as endangered, and in Tasmania, where it is listed as vulnerable. Like the devil, it is both a hunter and a scavenger, but hunting probably accounts for a larger portion of its diet. Loss of forest habitat is the greatest threat to the species.
Eastern quolls are smaller than their spotted-tailed cousins. They hunt smaller prey, and insects make up a substantial portion of their diet. The species once occurred on the Australian mainland, but predation by introduced foxes led to its extinction there in the 1960s. The lack of an established fox population allowed eastern quolls to survive in Tasmania, but numbers have declined dramatically in the last ten years, and the species is now listed as endangered.
Tasmanian devil: Photo © A. Polkanov 2012.
Spotted-tailed quoll: Photo © A. Polkanov 2012.
Eastern quoll: Photo by Ways (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.