Typically infectious diseases affect mostly older, younger, or less healthy individuals. However, the team of scientists from Australia and the US found that devils with higher fitness are at highest risk of infection and death from facial tumours. Dr Konstans Wells of Griffith’s Environmental Futures Research Institute (EFRI) said this was probably because of the disease’s mode of transmission among socially dominant individuals.

Professor Andrew Storfer, of Washington State University, said the study also revealed how resistance to the disease may be evolving.

“Our results show a recent decline in the likelihood that devils become infected. This could indicate some evolving resistance of devils to the cancer, as recently shown by researchers from our team,” he said.

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