Source of image:Wayne Maclean at http://www.waynemclean.com/ 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:
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
"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:http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20100310/tasmanian_devils_100310/20100310?hub=SciTech
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: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carrion ). 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:http://www.treesforlife.org.uk/forest/ecological/carrion.html
"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: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tasmanian_Devil )
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: