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Tasmanian devils evolve to resist deadly cancer

Andrew Storfer
Andrew Storfer

Tasmanian devils are evolving in response to a highly lethal and contagious form of cancer, a Washington State University researcher has found.

Andrew Storfer, WSU professor of biology, and an international team of scientists discovered that two regions in the genomes of Australia’s iconic marsupials are changing in response to the rapid spread of devil facial tumor disease (DFTD), a nearly 100 percent fatal and transmissible cancer first detected in 1996.

The work, published today in Nature Communications, suggests some Tasmanian devil populations are evolving genetic resistance to DFTD that could help the species avoid extinction.

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