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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Colony of Tasmanian Devils found to have immunity to cancer

Source of image:Wayne Maclean at and

In 2009 I talked about the fact that the Tasmanian devil had become listed as an endangered species in Australia 
(see the following page on my blog):

I am bringing this fact up because I just have become aware of a new article posted online concerning 
Tasmanian Devils. The article is entitled: "Tasmanian devil colony shows 
immunity to cancer.", and here is a portion of the article
 for you to read:

ADELAIDE, Australia — "Australian scientists said Wednesday that the discovery of a genetically
 distinct colony of Tasmanian devils may save the species from being wiped out by a contagious
 cancer that has decimated the population."
"So far, the colony in northwestern Tasmania state has proven immune to the face cancer that 

has ravaged the iconic animal -- made famous worldwide by their Looney Tunes cartoon
 namesake, Taz."
"We think these devils may be able to see the cancer cells as foreign and mount an immune 

response against them," lead researcher Kathy Belov said. "We think more animals might 
survive in the wild than we initially thought."
"The furry black animals spread a fast-killing cancer when they bite each other's faces. It

 causes grotesque facial tumors that eventually prevent them from feeding and can affect
 their internal organs."

"Devil Facial Tumor Disease was discovered in 1996. Since then, the numbers of Tasmanian

 devils have plummeted by 70 per cent. Last spring, Australia listed the devils as an
 endangered species and current estimates suggest the Tasmanian devil could be 
extinct within 25 years."

"But Belov said the new findings buy more time for managing the disease and 

developing a vaccine.
Belov, of the University of Sydney, worked with fellow researchers at the University of 

Tasmania, who monitored populations across the island. While earlier studies had
 looked at devils in eastern Tasmania, this time they took a wider sampling of 
400 devils across the state."

"Twenty per cent of those were found to be genetically different from the eastern devils, 

and so far have not caught the disease. "

To read the remainder of the article  go to the following website:

Tasmanian devils serve a very valuable place in the food chain of Australia. This is due to the fact that the main source of food for the devil is carrion. Carrion can be defined as  "the carcass of a dead animal." (source: ). I am not trying to gross you out by talking about this, but rather indicate the key role the Tasmanian devil occupies in the Australian ecosystem. According to the website:

"Animal carcasses, or carrion, contain a high concentration of energy and nutrients that need to be recycled back into the ecosystem. While it may seem unpleasant to us, to the scavengers that eat it, carrion is a valuable (and appetising!) source of food. It doesn't always have the same appeal as many other features of the forest, but carrion and its scavengers are a vital and fascinating part of the forest ecosystem."

"Scavenging can be an effective strategy as it saves on the energy that would be used in chasing and killing prey, and avoids the potential dangers of doing so; living prey can put up a fight after all!
"In a balanced forest ecosystem, carrion provides food for some of the most microscopic to some of the largest creatures in the forest, and forms a unique 'microclimate', offering shelter and protection to the myriad organisms that inhabit it. It is one of many ecological features in the forest that contributes to the complexity and health of the overall ecosystem. The scavengers that thrive on carrion play a crucial role in the food chain, ensuring that the nutrients locked up in animals' bodies are released back into the soil. These can then be used again by all the other life forms in the forest. In this way, carrion and its scavengers form a vital link between the death of an animal, and newly emerging life."

By eating this carrion, Tasmanian devils prevent the spread of diseases which the carrion may have possessed. "Tasmanian devils eliminate all traces of a carcass, devouring the bones and fur in addition to the meat and internal organs. In this respect, the devil has earned the gratitude of  Tasmanian farmers, as the speed at which they clean a carcass helps prevent the spread of insects that might otherwise harm livestock."
(source: )

Lets hope that other colonies of Tasmanian Devil are also found to have immunity to the deadly cancer which has caused them to be threatened with extinction!!

Here is a 3 minute video about the Tasmanian Devil which the  National Georgraphic society has posted at Youtube:

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Thoughts worth thinking about

"Our subconscious minds have no sense of humor, play no jokes and cannot tell the difference between reality and an imagined thought or image. What we continually think about eventually will manifest in our lives."-Sidney Madwed

Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every woman and man present their views without penalty, there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.- Albert Einstein Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. - Leo Buscaglia

A person's true wealth is the good he or she does in the world. - Mohammed

Our task must be to free ourselves... by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. -Albert Einstein

The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others. - Ghandi

The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves. - Helen Keller

Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life. Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make yourself a happier and more productive person. - Dr. David M. Burns

Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures. -His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Mankind's true moral test, its fundamental test (which lies deeply buried from view), consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect mankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it. -

Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The worst sin towards our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them. That's the essence of inhumanity. -George Bernard Shaw

Ego's trick is to make us lose sight of our interdependence. That kind of ego-thought gives us a perfect justification to look out only for ourselves. But that is far from the truth. In reality we all depend on each other and we have to help each other. The husband has to help his wife, the wife has to help the husband, the mother has to help her children, and the children are supposed to help the parents too, whether they want to or not.-Gehlek Rinpoche Source: "The Best Buddhist Writing 2005 pg. 165

The hostile attitude of conquering nature ignores the basic interdependence of all things and events---that the world beyond the skin is actually an extension of our own bodies---and will end in destroying the very environment from which we emerge and upon which our whole life depends.