Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Tasmanian Devils' Mysterious Cancer May Come in Two Varieties

by Charles Q. Choi, Live Science Contributor | December 29, 2015 02:42pm ET

The Tasmanian devil has long been known to suffer from an unusual type of cancer that can spread from animal to animal, but now researchers say the endangered species is plagued by at least two kinds of infectious cancer.

The finding suggests that Tasmanian devils are especially prone to the emergence of contagious tumors, and that transmissible cancers may arise more frequently in nature than previously thought, scientists added.

Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) are marsupials, like kangaroos and opossums; females have pouches to carry and suckle newborns. The furry, dog-size mammals are found only on the island of Tasmania, which sits about 150 miles (240 kilometers) south of Australia. Fossil evidence suggests that Tasmanian devils were once spread across the Australian mainland, but disappeared from the area about 400 years ago. 

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