Guarding Tasmanian devils against EXTINCTION!
The Devils in Danger foundation is an incorporated organisation, solely funded by public donations and therefore WE NEED YOUR HELP !!
All photos taken, and provided to the DIDF, by Ashlea Schott
The main mission of the DIDF is to GUARD AGAINST THE EXTINCTION OF THE ENDANGERED TASMANIAN DEVILS.
All income and profits of the DIDF go directly to the care and welfare of the Tasmanian Devils, and allow us to facilitate and implement the appropriate steps to ENSURE THE ONGOING SURVIVAL OF TASMANIAN DEVILS.
LATEST DEVILS IN DANGER PROGRESS
Devils in Danger Foundation Research Grant:
In 2015, the DIDF invited a variety of local Tasmanian Devil researchers to apply for a research grant to be used to aid their important work with Tasmanian Devils, in particular research on the devil facial tumour disease (DFTD).
The DIDF was pleased to award the full research grant to Associate Professor Menna Jones, the University of
Tasmania’s leading Tasmanian Devil researcher. This grant was to help Menna cover field expenses for her current Devil research on the Freycinet Peninsula. In November 2016 the DIDF received the following update from Associate Professor Menna Jones:
“I write to thank you for the $2,000 grant that was provided in 2015 for our research on how devils that live in the longest-diseased areas are coping with the disease. The funds were used to support field research on the Freycinet Peninsula, where we have been studying the Tasmanian devil population since 1999. The study site represents the longest data and sample set for devils and DFTD and one of the longest runs of data for the study of any emerging disease globally.
Our findings in the last 12 months are intriguing. The devil population at the southern part of the peninsula (south of the Freycinet airstrip), which had become locally almost extinct in 2012-2013, have recovered to almost the previous population level. Importantly, none of these devils have DFTD. We are currently using a number of techniques to find out why the population has recovered here. There are two alternative possibilities.
First, it may be because they declined to a very small number of individuals which by chance did not carry the disease, and there is little connectivity between the devils here and on the adjacent mainland further north. If this is the case, then it was just a chance event and disease will reinvade once the population recovers to a level where they interact once again with devils further north.
A second scenario is that we are seeing local resistance to the disease. We have reported recoveries in a small number of devils at a study site 15km to the west of Cradle Mountain (Pye et al., 2016). A significant finding that we published recently in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Communications, is that Tasmanian devils are rapidly evolving in response to the DFTD epidemic. At Freycinet and other sites, there are changes in genes associated with cancer and immune function occurring in as little as 4 generations (8 years) following local disease outbreak (Epstein et al., 2016).
Our results are the most important finding for the conservation of devils since the facial tumour disease emerged. We predicted back in 2008 that devils would be under very strong selection pressure because the disease caused such high mortality, close to 100%. Evolution offers the best chance for the Tasmanian devil to adapt to DFTD and hopefully to eventually recover populations in the wild. This process is happening much faster than we predicted.
Associate Professor Menna Jones
References cited by Menna (Click on each to read the full publication)
EPSTEIN, B., JONES, M., HAMEDE, R., HENDRICKS, S., MCCALLUM, H., MURCHISON, E. P., SCHÖNFELD, B., WIENCH, C., HOHENLOHE, P. & STORFER, A. 2016. Rapid evolutionary response to a transmissible cancer in Tasmanian devils. Nature Communications, 7, 12684.
PYE, R., HAMEDE, R., SIDDLE, H., CALDWELL, A., KNOWLES, G., SWIFT, K., KREISS, A., JONES, M., LYONS, A. B. & WOODS, G. 2016. Demonstration of immune responses against devil facial tumour disease in wild Tasmanian devils. Biology Letters, 12, 20160553.
**This research grant was made possible by the generous donations received by members of the general public and funds raised through Tasmanian devil adoptions. From July 2016 the DIDF has vowed to regularly raise funds for, and donate towards, Menna Jones’ vital Tasmanian devil field research!