I know that devils aren’t like Taz

They’re vicious little bastards at best. However, I do regard this as good news:

Tasmanian devils are developing an evolutionary response to a deadly transmissible cancer that has wiped out 80% of the species in the past 20 years, a new study has found.

Devil facial tumour disease, one of only three known transmissible cancers, has swept across nearly the entire species’ range of Tasmanian devils. However, populations predicted to be extinct by now continue to persist, albeit in low numbers.

A new genetic study, published in the journal Nature Communications, has now revealed that the mammals are rapidly evolving to defend themselves against it.

Cue the observation from Matt Ridley’s Red Queen. Rather the point of sex is to speed up the mixing of genes so that there’s at least a possibility of out evolving the parasites and diseases. Not that it developed because of that point, but that extant species are descended from those who managed to out evolve those parasites and diseases.

As, say, the Gros Michel banana, a clone, did not……

11 thoughts on “I know that devils aren’t like Taz”

  1. And the potatoes grown in Ireland before the famine were also clones. Seed potatoes were cut into many pieces for maximum use.
    Nearly all the crop was genetically identical or closely related.

  2. “However, populations predicted to be extinct by now continue to persist, albeit in low numbers.”

    Let’s hope those numbers aren’t so low they start to go the way the cheetah is going….

  3. The mammals aren’t evolving, the species is. And presumably it isn’t dong so because genes are being mixed, but because the animals who have genetic immunity have descendants while the others don’t.

  4. Isn’t that mixing of genes part of the process that provides “variation”, from which some will have genetic immunity whilst others don’t (from which descendants etc)?

  5. The elm in our hedge is growing back after being invisible for decades. It’s bloody hard to kill most British broad-leaved trees.

  6. Bloke in Costa Rica

    “why has it proved so hard to eliminate those sorry clones, socialists?”

    Because we haven’t really been trying. It’s not like Seumas Milne caught one in the back of the head for wanting to give Stalin a rim-job, is it?

  7. its transmitted by them biting each other’s faces (!). But if they weren’t such lunatics, would they have survived at all?

    Or if they had evolved a more ritualistic combat like stags, they wouldn’t get this cancer, but again, would they have survived? Perhaps the crazy aggression is the key to their survival.

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