Sarcophilus laniarius laniarius (Owen in Mitchell, 1838:363)

Great Tasmanian devil



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Synonym/s: Dasyurus laniarius Owen in Mitchell, 1838:363 (basionym; Stephenson, 1963:618); Sarcophilus laniaris (Owen in Mitchell, 1838:363) [orth. error used by (Lundelius & Turnbull, 1978:81)]


Originally described as Dasyurus laniarius (Owen, 1838), it was recombined as Sarcophilus laniarius by (Owen, 1877; [Lydekker, 1887?]; Lydekker, 1894).


Conservation Status

Extinct or invalid (synonym)





"The range has recently been extended to the Northern Territory by part of a jawbone found west of Oenpelli, just across the East Alligator River."

(Troughton, 1973:43)


Biology & Ecology




A C1 (accession # QMF44640) excavated from Darling Downs, southeastern Queensland, may represent either this species or the living S. harrisii (Price & Sobbe, 2005).

USNM 8665
USNM 173904
F31045 (Dawson, 1985:65)
UCMP45184 (Dawson, 1985:65)
UCMP45182 (Dawson, 1985:65)
BMNH 42555 (Stephenson, 1963:618)
BMNH 42559 (Stephenson, 1963:618)






Original scientific description:

Owen, Richard (1838). Letter in: Mitchell, Thomas L. Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia, with descriptions of the recently explored region of Australia Felix, and of the present colony of New South Wales. Vol. 1. London: T. & W. Boone, 343 pp.


Other references:

Archer, Michael "Mike". (1978). Quaternary vertebrate faunas from the Texas Caves of southeastern Queensland. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 19(1): 61-109.

Archer, Michael and Baynes, A. (1972). Prehistoric mammal faunas from two small caves in the extreme southwest of Western Australia. Journal of the Royal Society of Western Australia 55: 80-89.

Bartholomai, Alan. (1977). The fossil vertebrate fauna from Pleistocene deposits at Cement Mills, Gore, Southeastern Queensland. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 18(1): 41-51.

Baynes, A. and Walshe, K. (1994). Preliminary analysis of mammals from Aliens Cave, southern Nullarbor. Abstracts of the fourth conference on Australian vertebrate evolution, palaeontology and systematics, Adelaide, 19-21 April, 1993. Records of the South Australian Museum 1994. [Abstract]

Brown, O. J. F. (2006). Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) extinction on the Australian mainland in the mid-Holocene: multicausality and ENSO intensification. Alcheringa 30: 49-57.

Butler, W.H. (1969). Remains of Sarcophilus the “Tasmanian devil” (Marsupialia, Dasyuridae) from coastal dunes south of Scott River, Western Australia. Western Australian Naturalist 11: 87–8.

Calaby, John Henry and Lewis, D.J. (1977). The Tasmanian devil in Arnhem Land rock art. Mankind 11(2): 150–51.

Calaby, John Henry and White, C. (1967). The Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) in northern Australia in recent times. Aust. J. Sci. 49: 473-475.

Chaloupka, G. (1993). Journey in Time: The World’s Longest Continuing Art Tradition. Chatswood, NSW: Reed.

Cosgrove, Richard, Field, Judith, Garvey, Jillian, Brenner-Coltrain, Joan, Goede, Albert, Charles, Bethan, Wroe, Steve, Pike-Tay, Anne, Grün, Rainer, Aubert, Maxime, Lees, Wendy and O'Connell, James. (2010). Overdone overkill – the archaeological perspective on Tasmanian megafaunal extinctions. Journal of Archaeological Science 37: 2486-2503.

Cramb J, Hocknull S, Webb GE. (2009). High diversity Pleistocene rainforest dasyurid assemblages with implications for the radiation of the dasyuridae. Austral Ecology 34: 663-669.

Dawson, L. (1982). Taxonomic status of fossil devils (Sarcophilus, Dasyuridae, Marsupialia) from late Quaternary eastern Australian localities. In: Carnivorous Marsupials. Archer, Michael (ed). R. Zool. Soc. N.S.W., Sydney 517-525.

Dawson, Lyndall. (1985). Marsupial fossils from Wellington Caves, New South Wales; the historic and scientific significance of the collections in the Australia Museum, Sydney. Records of the Australian Museum 37(2): 55-69.

Errey, K. and Flannery, T. F. (1978). The neglected megafaunal sites of the Colongulac region, western Victoria. The Artefact 3: 101-106.

Glauert, L. G. (1926 "1925"). A list of Western Australian fossils. Supplement no.1. West. Aust. Geol. Surv. Bull. 88: 36-71.

Groves, Colin P. (1993). Order Dasyuromorphia, pp. 29-37. In: Mammal species of the world: a taxonomic and geographic reference (D. E. Wilson D. A. M. Reeder, eds.). 2nd ed. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

Hocknull, Scott A. (2005a). Ecological succession during the late Cainozoic of central eastern Queensland: extinction of adiverse rainforest community. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 51(1): 39-122. [automatic download]

Hope JH, Wilkinson HE. (1982). Warendja wakefieldi, a new genus of wombat (Maruspialia, Vombatidae) from Pleistocene sediments in McEacherns Cave, western Victoria. Memoirs of the National Museum of Victoria 43: 109-120.

Krefft, Gerard. (1867). Fossil Remains Found In the Caves of Wellington Valley. The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), Thursday 3 January 1867, pp. 3.

Lewis, D. (1988). The Rock Paintings of Arnhem Land, Australia: Social, Ecological and Material Culture Change in the Post-Glacial Period. BAR International Series 415. Oxford: British Archaeological Reports.

Lundelius, Ernest L. Jr. and Turnbull, W. D. (1978). The mammalian fauna of Madura Cave, Western Australia. Part III. Fieldiana Geology 38: 1-99, 29 tbls.

Lydekker, Richard. (1887). Catalogue of the Fossil Mammalia in the British Museum (Natural History). Part 5. London.

Lydekker, Richard. (1894). A Hand-Book to the Marsupialia and Monotremata, 302 pp.

Marshall, L. G. (1974). Late Pleistocene mammals from the 'Keilor Cranium Site', southwestern Victoria, Australia. Memoirs of the National Museum of Victoria 13: 63-85.

Marshall, L. G. and Corruccini, R. S. (1978). Variability, evolutionary rates, and allometry in dwarfing lineages. Paleobiology 4: 101-119. [Abstract]

Megirian, Dirk, Murray, Peter F, Latz, Peter K. and Johnson, Ken A. (2002). The Mygoora Local Fauna: a late Quaternary vertebrate assemblage from central Australia. The Beagle: Records of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory 18: 77-93. [Abstract]

Mitchell, Thomas L. (1838). Three Expeditions into the Interior of Eastern Australia, with descriptions of the recently explored region of Australia Felix, and of the present colony of New South Wales. Vol. 1. London: T. & W. Boone, 343 pp.

Owen, Richard (1877). Researches on the Fossil Remains of the Extinct Mammals of Australia, 2 vols. London.

Pate FD, MC McDowell, RT Wells, AM Smith. (2002). Last recorded evidence for megafauna at Wet Cave, Naracoorte, South Australia 45,000 years ago. Australian Archaeology 30(sup1): 277-279.

Pledge, Neville S. (1990). The Upper Fossil Fauna of the Henschke Fossil Cave, Naracoorte, South Australia. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum (Proceedings of the De Vis Symposium) 28(1): 247-262.

Price, Gilbert J., Louys, Julien, Smith Garry K. and Cramb Jonathan. (2019). Shifting faunal baselines through the Quaternary revealed by cave fossils of eastern Australia. PeerJ 6: e6099.

Price, Gilbert J. and Sobbe, I. H. (2005). Pleistocene palaeoecology and environmental change on the Darling Downs, southeastern Queensland, Australia. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 51(1): 171-201. [subfossil remains from Darling Downs, Queensland]

Price et al. (2009b) Price GJ, Zhao J-X, Feng Y-X, Hocknull SA. New U/Th ages for Pleistocene megafauna deposits of southeastern Queensland, Australia. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences. 2009b;34(2): 190-197. [youngest S. laniarius specimen c.50ka]

Price GJ, Webb GE, Zhao J-X, Feng Y-X, Murray AS Bernard N. Cooke b, Scott A. Hocknull e, Ian H. Sobbe. (2011). Dating megafaunal extinction on the Pleistocene Darling Downs, eastern Australia: the promise and pitfalls of dating as a test of extinction hypotheses. Quaternary Science Reviews 30: 899-914.

Price GJ, Zhao J-X, Feng Y-X, Hocknull SA. (2009). New records of Plio-Pleistocene Koalas from Australia: Palaeoecological and taxonomic implications. Records of the Australian Museum 61: 39-48.

Prideaux, GJ, Roberts RG, Megirian D, Westaway KE, Hellstrom JC, Olley JM. (2007). Mammalian responses to Pleistocene climate change in Southeastern Australia. Geology. 2007;35(1): 33-36. [oldest known S. laniarius specimen, c.500ka]

Reed, E. H. (2006). In Situ Taphonomic Investigation of Pleistocene Large Mammal Bone Deposits from The Ossuaries, Victoria Fossil Cave, Naracoorte, South Australia. Helictite 39(1): 5-15. [subfossil record]

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Roberts, Richard G, Flannery, Timothy F., Ayliffe, Linda, Yoshida, Hiroyuki, Olley, Jon M., Prideaux, Gavin J., Laslett, Geoff M., Baynes, Alexander, Smith, M. A., Jones, Rhys I. and Smith, Barton L. (2001). New ages for the last Australian megafauna: Continent-wide extinction about 46,000 years ago. Science 292(5523): 1888-1892.

Rose, Robert K. et al. (2017). Sarcophilus harrisii (Dasyuromorphia: Dasyuridae). Mammalian Species 49(942): 1-17.

Smith, M. A. (1977). Devon Downs Reconsidered: An Exercise in Bioarchaeology. Unpublished B.A. (Hons) thesis, Australian National University. [Reidentification of 'Dingo' tooth as that of a Tasmanian Devil]

Stephenson, N. G. (1963). Growth gradients among fossil monotremes and marsupials. Palaeontology 6(4): 615-624.

Troughton, Ellis Le Geyt. (1973). Furred Animals of Australia, revised and abridged 9th edition. Sydney: Angus and Robertson. ["This revised and abridged edition first published in 1973"]

Turnbull, William D; Lundelius, Ernest L and Tedford, Richard H. (1992). A Pleistocene marsupial fauna from Limeburner's Point, Victoria, Australia. The Beagle: Records of the Museums and Art Galleries of the Northern Territory 9: 143-171. [Abstract]

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Wakefield, Norman A. (1972). Palaeoecology of fossil mammal assemblages for some Australian caves. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Victoria 85(1): 1-26.

Waterhouse, George Robert. (1841). Marsupialia, or Pouched Animals (Mammalia, vol. XI). In: Jardine, William (ser. ed.). The Naturalist's Library (vol. XXIV). Edinburgh: W.H. Lizars / London: Henry G. Bohn. xvi + 324 pp.

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Werdelin, L. (1987). Some observations on Sarcophilus laniarius and the evolution of Sarcophilus. Records of the Queen Victoria Museum, Launceston 90: 1-27. [Abstract]


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