Tasmanian Devils evolving resistance to facial cancer

September 2, 2016

New research suggests that Tasmanian devils are evolving resistance to Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), which has seen devil populations decline by between 80% and 90%.

Following the extinction of the thylacine in the 1930s, devils have become the top marsupial predator, keeping numbers of feral cats at bay.

With the decline of the devils, feral cats have grown in numbers and small mammals on which cats prey have declined.

Scientists have identified significant changes in DNA samples of devils from regions with DFTD.

Genes related to cancer or immune function in other mammals have mutated, suggesting that devils are evolving resistance to DFTD.

Evolution is often thought of as a slow process, but these changes have occurred in only 4–8 generations.

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