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