Monday 5 August, 2013

Can we save the Tasmanian devil from extinction?

Prof Kathy Belov, Faculty of Veterinary Science, The University of Sydney

Thanks to cartoons, we are brought up imagining that Tasmanian devils are virtually indestructible, and can only be defeated by a wascally wabbit. However, in real life this image of invincibility could not be further from the truth as the Tasmanian devil faces extinction in the wild due to the emergence of a new infectious disease. Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) is a contagious cancer that is spread during biting. The disease emerged and has spread due to a lack of genetic diversity in Tasmanian devil populations.

The recent discovery of genetically different animals in northwestern Tasmania initially raised hopes that some of these animals may be able to mount an immune response against DFTD. However, this has not occurred and there is little evidence of genetic resistance. Moreover, the emergence of new strains of DFTD adds to the complexity of the picture. In this talk Kathy Belov will talk about her current research and conservation strategies to save the Tasmanian devil from extinction.

  • Time: 6:30 – 7:30pm, Monday 5 August, 2013
  • Venue: Long Room, Customs House at Riverside
  • Arrangements: Doors open at 6pm. No need to book – just show up!
  • Questions? For any further information please contact Andrew.

Kathy Belov is an award winning scientist based in the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney. Her research expertise is in the area of comparative genomics and immunogenetics of Australian wildlife. Kathy’s research team has participated in the opossum, platypus and wallaby genome projects. Her team’s work into Tasmanian devils has demonstrated that their extremely low levels of genetic diversity has provided an opportunity for Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD), a rare contagious cancer, to spread through devil populations without encountering histocomopatibility barriers.

Kathy’s work has been rewarded with two Eureka prizes – the People’s Choice Award in 2009 and the Sherman Eureka Prize for Environmental Research in 2011.

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