"In the midst of a human pandemic, we have some good news about a
wildlife one: our new research, published today in Science, shows
Tasmanian devils are likely to survive despite the infectious cancer
that has ravaged their populations.
Tasmanian devils have been devastated by a bizarre transmissible cancer.
Devil facial tumour disease, or DFTD for short, was first detected in
1996 in northeast Tasmania. Transmitted via biting, DFTD has spread over
almost the entire state, reaching the west coast in the past two or
three years. It has led to a decline of at least 80% in the total devil
Ten years ago, we thought there was a real chance DFTD would drive the
Tasmanian devil to extinction. Our concern arose not just because the
cancer was almost inevitably lethal, but also because the transmission
rate did not appear to slow down, even as devils became very rare.
Our new research has some good news: by pioneering application of
genomic analysis typically used for viruses, we have discovered the
curve has flattened and the rate of increase of infections has slowed.
This means while the disease is probably not going away, neither are
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics