Research by an international team of scientists, published at the end of August in the journal Nature Communications, shows two regions in the genomes of Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) appear to be evolving in response to the fatal facial tumour disease that has ravaged populations in the wild for almost 20 years.
Evolutionary geneticist Andrew Storfer from Washington State University, and geneticist Paul Hohenlohe from the University of Idaho, compared tissue samples collected from Tasmanian devils by Menna Jones over a 17-year period. An Associate Professor and wildlife ecologist at the University of Tasmania, Jones is credited with first identifying DFTD during the mid-1990s, and she subsequently established long-term field sites to study the animals. In less than 20 years populations of devils in the wild have declined by more than 80 per cent.
Jones, who is a co-author of the paper, said two small genomic regions were identified in the recently collected DNA samples from three sites: Narawntapu in Tasmania’s north-east, West Pencil Pine in western Tasmania’s Cradle Valley, and Freycinet, on the east coast. They all exhibited significant changes in response to the strong selection imposed by the disease. Continue reading Signs shown of genetic resistance to DFTD