Tasmanian Devils (Sarcophilus harisii) is the largest carnivorous marsupial surviving today. This species feeds on carrion and is native to Tasmania, Australia. The species was once thriving in Tasmania with an estimated 150,000 individuals but the population decreased and became contracted after European Settlers arrived on Tasmania. And with the people and the reduced gene pool came Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD)!
DFTD is an infective facial cancer which has devastating effects on the Tasmanian devil population with reduction in the region of 60-90%. It was believed that DFTD would lead to the extinction of the Tasmanian Devil in the short term. Now scientists have found that there is a small population of Tasmanian devil that have some evidence of immunity. If immunity is found in other populations it would demonstrate substantial evolution in a short period of time (since the disease was detected in 1996) and could reverse the effects of DFTD. It was once believed that the extinction of this species was coming but the news that there could be natural immunity gives hope to the species. Along with the immunised released individuals this could be very good news for the Tasmanian Devil! This would also be a shining example of an animal saving itself from what was ultimately a human induced extinction event!