Could the Tasmanian devil evolve and save itself from extinction?


More than half of all wild Tasmanian devils have died over the last 12 years, victims of a bizarre, communicable cancer called devil facial tumor disease (DFTD).

Scientists have been at a loss to stop the epidemic, and to date the devils' only hope has been to move an uninfected population to safe zones off their island home.

But now one Tasmanian devil holds possible hope for the species. His name is Cedric, and so far, he has shown immunity to DFTD.

Scientists are still conducting tests -- DFTD has a six-month incubation period -- but right now, it appears that genetic variations in Cedric's immune system give him an edge over other devils. If he truly proves to be immune, it could lead to a vaccine or a breeding program to spread his genes through the rest of the devil population.

Of course, as Dr. Greg Woods of the Save the Tasmanian Devil program told The Australian, "It keeps me awake at night - we are really relying on just one devil. The answer could be just around the corner - or we could be back to basics."

We're rooting for you, Cedric.

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