The family Dasyuridae includes the well-known Tasmanian devil, eastern quolls (native cats), spotted-tailed quolls (tiger cats) and antechinuses (marsupial mice). The closely-related Tasmanian tiger (or thylacine)
, also a carnivorous marsupial, is classified in its own family: Thylacinidae.
Over forty species have been described from Australia and New Guinea. Seven occur in Tasmania:
- Tasmanian devil Sarcophilus harrisii
- Spotted-tail quoll Dasyurus maculatus
- Eastern quoll Dasyurus viverrinus
- Tasmanian dusky antechinus Antechinus swainsonii
- Tasman Peninsula dusky antechinus Antechinus vandycki
- Swamp antechinus Antechinus minimus
- White-footed dunnart Sminthopsis leucopus
The carnivorous marsupials are among the most impressive of hunting mammals. However, their smaller size, nocturnal habits and cryptic behaviour often leaves them overshadowed in the popular imagination by the conspicuous carnivores of Africa and Asia, such as leopards, tigers and lions.
As with all marsupials, the carnivorous species possess a pouch, although in some species, the pouch is little more than a mere fold. Typically, the young are carried within the pouch until such time that they are literally being dragged along the ground while the mother hunts. At this stage, the young are generally left in a den (such as a hollow log) while the mother hunts.
Most of the members of this family are small, about the size of a rat. Tasmania has the distinction of being home to the four largest carnivorous marsupials in the world.