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Distribution and impacts of Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumor Disease


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McCallum, HI, Tompkins, DM, Jones, ME, Lachish, S, Marvanek, S, Lazenby, B, Hocking, G, Wiersma, J and Hawkins, CE 2007 , 'Distribution and impacts of Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumor Disease' , EcoHealth, vol. 4, no. 3 , pp. 318-325 , doi: 10.1007/s10393-007-0118-0.

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The Tasmanian devil, Sarcophilus harrisii, is the largest extant marsupial carnivore. In 1996, a
debilitating facial tumor was reported. It is now clear that this is an invariably lethal infectious cancer. The
disease has now spread across the majority of the range of the species and is likely to occur across the entire range
within 5 to 10 years. The disease has lead to continuing declines of up to 90% and virtual disappearance of older
age classes. Mark-recapture analysis and a preliminary epidemiological model developed for the population with
the best longitudinal data both project local extinction in that area over a timeframe of 10 to 15 years from
disease emergence. However, the prediction of extinction from the model is sensitive to the estimate of the latent
period, which is poorly known. As transmission appears to occur by biting, much of which happens during
sexual encounters, the dynamics of the disease may be typical of sexually transmitted diseases. This means that
transmission is likely to be frequency-dependent with no threshold density for disease maintenance. Extinction
over the entire current range of the devil is therefore a real possibility and an unacceptable risk.

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:McCallum, HI and Tompkins, DM and Jones, ME and Lachish, S and Marvanek, S and Lazenby, B and Hocking, G and Wiersma, J and Hawkins, CE
Keywords: Tasmanian devil, infectious cancer, extinction, disease ecology
Journal or Publication Title: EcoHealth
Publisher: Springer
ISSN: 1612-9202
DOI / ID Number: 10.1007/s10393-007-0118-0
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