23 June 2024
Tasmanian devil genetics aid spotted-tailed quoll

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A study conducted by evolutionary biologists and natural scientists has uncovered evidence suggesting that the population decline of the Tasmanian devil could be driving genetic changes in the spotted-tailed quoll, another predator species in the region. The research, published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, involved collecting quoll tissue samples and conducting a genetic analysis and comparison over 15 generations. The findings indicate that the genetic makeup of quolls has undergone changes during the period of devil decline. A Research Briefing detailing the study has been published alongside the main article.

Tasmanian Devil Genetics and Quoll Adaptation: A Story of Evolutionary Change



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In the heart of Tasmania, a captivating tale of predator-prey dynamics is unfolding, with profound implications for the genetic makeup of two iconic marsupials: the Tasmanian devil and the spotted-tailed quoll. A recent study published in Nature Ecology & Evolution has shed light on the remarkable evolutionary changes occurring within the quoll population as a result of the devil’s dwindling numbers.

Tasmanian Devil Genetics and Quoll Adaptation: The Devil’s Plight

The Tasmanian devil, a fierce and enigmatic creature, has faced a formidable adversary in recent decades: devil facial tumor disease (DFTD). This contagious cancer, spread through biting, has decimated the devil population, reducing their numbers by over 80% since the 1990s. The disease’s relentless spread has left a void in Tasmania’s ecosystem, with profound consequences for the island’s intricate web of life.

Tasmanian Devil Genetics and Quoll Adaptation: The Spotted-Tailed Quoll

As the devil population plummeted, the spotted-tailed quoll, a smaller marsupial predator, found itself in an altered landscape. With fewer devils competing for resources, quolls experienced reduced pressure to compete for food and territory. This newfound freedom has allowed them to expand their range and increase their population.

Tasmanian Devil Genetics and Quoll Adaptation: Genetic Shifts

The study’s findings reveal that the quoll population has undergone significant genetic changes in response to the devil’s decline. Researchers analyzed genetic data from over 300 quolls, spanning 15 generations, and discovered that quolls living in areas with higher DFTD prevalence exhibited greater genetic similarity. This suggests that quolls in these regions have become more genetically homogeneous, likely due to reduced competition and increased interbreeding.

Tasmanian Devil Genetics and Quoll Adaptation: Unraveling the Genetic Enigma

The study also identified specific genetic variants associated with the devil’s decline. These variants were linked to traits such as movement and muscle development, hinting at potential changes in quoll behavior and physiology. Quolls living in areas with fewer devils may have adapted to their new environment by becoming less mobile and investing more energy in muscle development, allowing them to thrive in the absence of their top predator.

Tasmanian Devil Genetics and Quoll Adaptation: A Delicate Balance

The devil’s decline and the quoll’s adaptation serve as a poignant reminder of the interconnectedness of life. The loss of a single species can trigger a cascade of changes throughout an ecosystem, impacting not only the surviving species but also the genetic makeup of those species. As we continue to grapple with the challenges of biodiversity loss, understanding these intricate relationships is crucial for preserving the delicate balance of our natural world..

FAQ’s

1. What is the main cause of the Tasmanian devil’s decline?

The Tasmanian devil has been facing a devastating contagious cancer called devil facial tumor disease (DFTD), which has reduced their population by over 80% since the 1990s.

2. How has the decline of the Tasmanian devil impacted the spotted-tailed quoll?

With fewer devils competing for resources, the spotted-tailed quoll population has expanded its range and increased in numbers.

3. What are the genetic changes observed in the spotted-tailed quoll population?

Quolls living in areas with higher DFTD prevalence exhibited greater genetic similarity, suggesting increased genetic homogeneity.

4. What specific genetic variants are associated with the devil’s decline and how do they affect quoll traits?

Genetic variants linked to traits such as movement and muscle development were identified. Quolls in areas with fewer devils may have adapted by becoming less mobile and investing more in muscle development.

5. Why is the decline of the Tasmanian devil and the adaptation of the spotted-tailed quoll significant?

This case highlights the interconnectedness of life and the impact of biodiversity loss on ecosystems. The loss of a single species can trigger a cascade of changes, including genetic adaptations in surviving species.

Links to additional Resources:

1. nature.com 2. sciencedirect.com 3. pnas.org

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Tasmanian devil, Spotted-tailed quoll, Devil facial tumor disease

Tasmanian devil
The Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) (palawa kani: purinina) is a carnivorous marsupial of the family Dasyuridae. It was formerly present across mainland Australia, but became extinct there around 3,500 years ago. The size of a small dog, the Tasmanian devil became the largest carnivorous marsupial in the world following the...
Read more: Tasmanian devil

Tiger quoll
The tiger quoll (Dasyurus maculatus), also known as the spotted-tail quoll, the spotted quoll, the spotted-tail dasyure, native cat or the tiger cat, is a carnivorous marsupial of the quoll genus Dasyurus native to Australia. With males and females weighing around 3.5 and 1.8 kg (7.7 and 4.0 lb), respectively,...
Read more: Tiger quoll

Devil facial tumour disease
Devil facial tumour disease (DFTD) is an aggressive non-viral clonally transmissible cancer which affects Tasmanian devils, a marsupial native to the Australian island of Tasmania. The cancer manifests itself as lumps of soft and ulcerating tissue around the mouth, which may invade surrounding organs and metastasise to other parts of...
Read more: Devil facial tumour disease

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