New Hope for Tasmanian Devils

Tasmanian Devil
Originally uploaded by mrdehoot

The New York Times reports that scientists have discovered the origin of the facial cancer ravaging the Tasmanian devil population. The cancer spreads from animal to animal when the marsupials fight, and has killed 60 percent of the population since it was first seen in 1996. Some fear it could cause extinction of the species within 35 years. Many scientists had assumed that the disease is caused by a virus, but recent research suggests instead that the tumors all originated from a single Schwann cell in a single animal. From that progenitor, the tumors have spread like parasites. This new study, published in the journal Science, could lead the way for a vaccine to protect the remaining animals and save the species from extinction.


Leave a Reply