For nearly a year since the first cases of COVID ripped across the world , humanity has been talking about viruses. But for the past three decades, Tasmanian devils have been suffering from their own pandemic—a gruesome facial cancer that spreads through biting. And unlike nearly all other cancers, this form is contagious. Related: Can Tasmanian devils beat cancer of the face? Many experts worry that if this pattern continues, the disease will eventually drive the species from endangered to extinct. In response, scientists have bred Tasmanian devils in captivity, and earlier this year, reintroduced 26 of the animals to mainland Australia.
Two Decades of the Impact of Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumor Disease
To Lose Both Would Look Like Carelessness: Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour Disease
Tasmanian devils are affected by two independent transmissible cancers known as devil facial tumour 1 DFT1 and devil facial tumour 2 DFT2. Both cancers are spread by biting and cause the appearance of tumours on the face or inside the mouth of affected Tasmanian devils. The tumours often become very large and usually cause death of affected animals. DFT1 has spread widely around Tasmania and has caused declines in the Tasmanian devil population; DFT2, on the other hand, appears to be confined to a peninsula in south-east Tasmania.
Facing Facts: Why a transmissible facial cancer is decimating Tasmanian devil populations
There's fresh hope for the survival of endangered Tasmanian devils after large numbers were killed off by facial tumours. But researchers have found the animals' immune system to be modifying to combat the assault. And according to an international team of scientists from Australia, UK, US and France, the future for the devils is now looking brighter.
Perhaps no animal is better suited to its name than the Tasmanian devil. While it might look cute and cuddly , in reality this animal is quite the opposite. With the strongest bite of any mammal and an infamous blood-curdling scream, the Tasmanian devil is a fierce and formidable creature known to attack animals many times its size.