Dr Austin and colleagues from SA Zoos and the Tasmanian Government will spend the next three years establishing a conservation program and working to suppress the infectious cancer, devil facial tumour disease, which is ravaging Australia’s largest living marsupial carnivore.
The Tasmanian devil is not only a key tourism icon for Australia’s most southern State, but also ecologically critical to Tasmania’s native ecosystem.
“Extinction of the species is a possibility within the next two decades unless disease spread can be stopped,” says Dr Austin.
Because Tasmanian devils have extremely low levels of genetic diversity and a chromosomal mutation unique among carnivorous mammals, they are more prone to the infectious cancer. Dr Austin’s team will analyse genetic material from devil populations to understand the origin, spread and impact of the disease and try to find a vaccine.
“We need to establish whether the low levels of genetic diversity are due to recent human impacts or a long-term historical pattern. We also need to look at how the cancer is affecting surviving populations and identify individuals that may be resistant to the disease.”
Tasmanian devils became extinct on the Australian mainland at least 400 years ago and are now found only in Tasmania. Unlike Tasmanian tigers, devils survived initial human impacts following European colonisation but in the past decade their numbers have fallen drastically.
“We have lost over half our devils in the past 10 years, with an estimated population of 20,000 to 50,000 mature devils left. Extinction within the next 20 years is a real possibility unless we find a vaccine, eradicate the disease and establish captive colonies,” Dr Austin says.
Devil facial tumour disease is one of only two known clonally transmissible cancers and appears to have originated from a genetic change of mutation in a single individual. It is spread through biting, without any evidence of recovery or resistance to the disease.
The project, which has received $168,000 from the Federal Government, combines ancient DNA methods and modern genetic procedures to examine the impact of the disease on Tasmanian devils.Dr Jeremy Austin, ARC Senior Research Associate
Dr Jeremy Austin | Newswise Science News
Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung
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The Institute of Semiconductor Technology and the Institute of Physical and Theoretical Chemistry, both members of the Laboratory for Emerging Nanometrology (LENA), at Technische Universität Braunschweig are partners in a new European research project entitled ChipScope, which aims to develop a completely new and extremely small optical microscope capable of observing the interior of living cells in real time. A consortium of 7 partners from 5 countries will tackle this issue with very ambitious objectives during a four-year research program.
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Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
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Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
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In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
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