From the team at BBC Wildlife Magazine

Tasmanian devils are becoming resistant to cancer

Tasmanian devil may be coming up with its own cure for fatal facial cancer disease.

Tasmanian Devils are rapidly evolving resistance to the cancer that kills them. © Craig Dingle/iStock
Published: September 29, 2016 at 12:42 pm
Lock in for longer & save 50% - Get a year's subscription to BBC Wildlife for just £32.40

Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) has wiped out 80% of the Tasmanian devil population in the past 20 years, and scientists have made little progress in finding a cure.

Advertisement

But now there’s a ray of hope for the largest-living carnivorous marsupial.

Researchers from Washington State University have found that the species – which is only found in Australia’s island state of Tasmania – is evolving its own immunity to the disease.

Researchers writing in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Communications, say significant changes have occurred in just four generations in two areas and over six generations in another.

“Our results reflect a rapid evolutionary response to the strong selection pressure imposed by DFTD, and such a response to a highly lethal, novel pathogen has rarely, if ever, been documented in wild populations,” they said.

Read the full paper.


Advertisement

Main image: Tasmanian Devils are rapidly evolving resistance to the cancer that kills them. © Craig Dingle/iStock

Authors

Simon Birch is an award-winning freelance journalist who has specialised in environmental and ethically themed features for 20 years. He regularly contribute to a wide range of national newspapers and magazines.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Sponsored content