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Sympathy for the devils..

The puzzle regarding the source of the mysterious cancer killing Australia's Tasmanian devils has been solved, it is a cell line without sex chromosomes and the cancer cells are transferred between devils when they fight. A big shame, devils fight for fun, fight for food and males must fight and defeat their prospective mates, who will then allow themselves to be dragged off for mating. They sound absolutely terrifying. The world's largest carnivorous marsupial is the size of a small dog and can weigh up to 12 kg. On the island state of Tasmania they are the dominant predator, but over the past three years the facial cancers have cut some population groups by 85%.

The population of the Tasmanian devil, Sarcophilus harrisii, peaked at 200,000 in 1996; the cancer may kill two thirds of the carnivorous inhabitants by 2006.The disease spread throughout the eastern and central parts of Tasmania over the last two years; the tumours  grow so large they block the animals' eyesight, hearing or mouth and unable to feed, they starve to death.

Australians are isolating healthy animals, but only a vaccine can save the vast majority of the devils.


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