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He speculated that these adaptations may have caused the contemporary devil's peculiar gait.

As most of their prey died of the cold, only a few carnivores survived, including the ancestors of the quoll and thylacine.

Devils were hunted and became endangered in Tasmania because they were seen as a threat to livestock and animals that humans hunted for fur.

In 1941, the devils, which were originally seen as implacably vicious, became officially protected.

Fossils of species similar to modern devils have been found, but it is not known whether they were ancestors of the contemporary species, or whether the current devils co-existed with these species.

It was once native to mainland Australia and is now found in the wild only on the island state of Tasmania, including tiny east-coast Maria Island where there is a conservation project with disease-free animals.

The young become independent after around nine months, so the female spends most of her year in activities related to birth and rearing.

Since the late 1990s, the devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) has drastically reduced the devil population and now threatens the survival of the species, which in 2008 was declared to be endangered.

A tooth found in Augusta, Western Australia has been dated to 430 years ago, but archaeologist Oliver Brown disputes this and considers the devil's mainland extinction to have occurred around 3000 years ago.

This disappearance is usually blamed on dingoes, which are absent from Tasmania.

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