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Carcinogens and Cancer

Cancers are generally cause by a pair of genetic changes which can be caused by dietary or environmental factors.

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The Devils' Worst Enemy

The Devil's Worst Enemy

Tasmanian Devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) have a well-deserved fierce reputation. Pound for pound they have one of the strongest bites of any mammal.

Sometimes Tough Doesn't Cut It

Researchers have been aware of cancer in wild populations for a long time, however little attention was paid to this as the cancers observed didn't seem to lead to mortality. But things are changing, and no one is quite sure why.

No Duh's and Head Scratchers

If you need help scratching a mental itch, use the resources below:

  1. How is cancer being transmitted among Tasmanian Devils? Why does this kind of transmission create problems for the species beyond the cancer?
  2. What do you think of the idea of fencing off healthy populations? Does this seem like a workable solution to you? Why or why not? Can you see potential problems with this approach?
  3. What led to the increased awareness of cancer in wildlife populations? Are you surprised that cancer is a problem for wild populations? Why or why not?
  4. How does this cancer kill Tasmanian Devils? Can you think of any way to potentially save infected individuals? How would you gauge the effectiveness of this approach?
  5. In what other wild animal is cancer becoming a concern? What do some people believe is a common thread shared by the animals that are being affected by cancer? Does this hypothesis seem reasonable to you? Why or why not? Can you think of another thread that might explain what appears to be happening?


Tasmanian Devils (Sarcophilus harrisii) were once widespread on the Australian continent. It is believed the introduction of the dingo led to them being restricted to Tasmania.

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