|DFTD describes a fatal condition in Tasmanian devils which is characterised by the appearance of facial cancers. The tumours or cancers are first noticed in and around the mouth as small lesions or lumps. These develop into large tumours around the face and neck and sometimes even in other parts of the body. |
DFTD is extremely unusual as it is only one of three recorded cancers that can spread like a contagious disease. The cancer is passed from devil to devil through biting. The live tumour cells aren’t rejected by their immune system because of a lack of genetic diversity among Tasmanian devils.
DFTD affects mainly adults - males seem to be the first affected, then females - although juveniles as young as one can also be infected. When the disease is advanced Tasmanian devils may have many cancers throughout the body.
Infected devils may become emaciated if the tumours interfere with teeth and feeding. Many females lose their young. Infected animals die within months of the lesions first appearing.
For further information please visit the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program website: www.tassiedevil.com.au
Tasmania Online | Service Tasmania
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