Poor Devils: Critters' fights transmit cancer | Science News


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Poor Devils: Critters' fights transmit cancer

9:56am, February 1, 2006

A fatal cancer afflicting Tasmanian devils passes from one of the small marsupials to another when they bite each other, rather than being transmitted via a virus, a new study suggests. The disease is the first cancer known to spread directly from scratch to scratch.

The whirling cartoon version of a Tasmanian devil may not look much like the furry reality, but it does capture the creature's legendary fierceness.

"They're always squabbling and fighting. They don't share food, and their [mating] foreplay isn't much better," says cytogeneticist Anne-Maree Pearse of Tasmania's Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment in Kings Meadows. "They bite each other around the face and mouth."

That behavior may have deadly consequences, Pearse says. The disease ap

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