Tasmanian Devil genome sequenced

21 September 2010

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Category: Animal welfare & alternatives

tasmanian–devil.jpgThe Tasmanian Devil is at risk of extinction in the wild due to a transmissible cancer passed on when one animal bites another.

The cancer causes a facial tumour that kills the infected animal through starvation within a few months.

As the disease has spread through Tasmania the population of these marsupials has fallen by over three quarters to around 30,000 individuals.

The Devils genome has been sequenced to find the mutation that has given rise to the cancer with the aim of eventually finding a treatment.

In the meantime a small population of uninfected animals are being kept in captivity to ensure the survival of this species.

Sequencing the Devils genome also allows researchers to investigate the evolution of a cancer that originated in just one devil 20 years ago, a cancer has long survived its original host.