Allograft theory: transmission of devil facial-tumour disease

Nature. 2006 Feb 2;439(7076):549. doi: 10.1038/439549a.


The Tasmanian devil, a large carnivorous Australian marsupial, is under threat from a widespread fatal disease in which a malignant oral-facial tumour obstructs the animal's ability to feed. Here we show that the chromosomes in these tumours have undergone a complex rearrangement that is identical for every animal studied. In light of this remarkable finding and of the known fighting behaviour of the devils, we propose that the disease is transmitted by allograft, whereby an infectious cell line is passed directly between the animals through bites they inflict on one another.

MeSH terms

  • Aggression
  • Animals
  • Bites and Stings / veterinary*
  • Chromosome Aberrations*
  • Facial Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Facial Neoplasms / immunology
  • Facial Neoplasms / veterinary*
  • Karyotyping
  • Marsupialia / genetics*
  • Marsupialia / immunology
  • Models, Biological
  • Tasmania
  • Transplantation, Homologous / immunology
  • Transplantation, Homologous / pathology*
  • Transplantation, Homologous / veterinary*