Tasmanian devils create a “landscape of fear” for feral cats, which causes the cats to avoid altogether those areas where they might encounter Tasmanian devils.
This has become clear because in Tasmania the Tasmanian devil has suffered from a fatal transmissible cancer to the face which has caused their population to plummet by about 80% on average. The decreasing population varies by area.
In those areas where the Tasmanian devil’s population has significantly declined there are more feral cats partly because the area becomes less scary for them and partly because there’s more carrion (dead animals) to eat.
The reason why there’s more dead animals to eat is because the Tasmanian devil is a wonderful scavenger and if there are less Tasmanian devils there’s less scavenging. If there’s less scavenging there’s more dead animals and therefore more food for feral cats.
Scientists have therefore concluded that the decline of the Tasmanian devil on the island has had a unusual and significant knock-on effect. The effect has been negative in its consequences but a positive spin-off has been the thought that the devil might be a useful deterrent to feral cats on mainland Australia. It was once native to mainland Australia.
As it happens, the devil appears to be solving the disease by evolving resistance to facial tumours. The authorities say that this process should be ameliorated and assisted by the government. Tasmania also has a dread of feral cats because they prey on native species. Therefore there is a strong desire to control their numbers and ideally the population.
Therefore the decline in the population side of Tasmanian devils is an unwelcome development. The devil is such a good scavenger that carcasses are completely eaten within about five days compared to 13 days were the population number has declined due to the facial tumour disease.
P.S. The Tasmanian devil has the strongest bite force:
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This information (except for bite force) comes from the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B which has been published on the phys.org website.
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