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Tech & Science Vision of Tasmanian devil waiting for 'friend' shocks researchers

20:51  09 august  2018
20:51  09 august  2018 Source:   abc.net.au

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Interesting Tasmanian Devil Facts: Tasmanian devils look like dogs of medium size. They can reach 30 inches in length and up to 26 pounds in weight. Researchers have been stunned by unusual Tasmanian devil behaviour that has been caught on tape. The Save the Tasmanian Devil Program

The Save the Tasmanian Devil Program set up cameras during a recent trapping exercise in the state's south-west. The vision shows two devils , a male "The fact they arrived together, and that fact that she waited , really implies that they are socialising, travelling together, they know each other, and of

Tasmanian devil footage© Provided by ABC News Tasmanian devil footage

Researchers have been stunned by unusual Tasmanian devil behaviour that has been caught on tape.

The Save the Tasmanian Devil Program set up cameras during a recent trapping exercise in the state's south-west.

The vision shows two devils, a male and female, approaching a trap at night, and when the male gets caught in the trap the female begins scratching and pawing it.

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"We [thought], 'Oh, is she trying to get to the food? What's she trying to do?'" Dr David Pemberton, manager of the Save the Tasmanian Devil Program, said.

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Never-before seen behaviour by Tasmanian devils has been caught on camera, raising questions about the long-held belief that they are solitary creatures.

A female Tasmanian devil has been captured waiting for her male companion for four hours in A Tasmanian devil has been captured displaying never-before-seen behaviour that has shocked Vision of Tasmanian devil waiting for ' friend ' shocks researchers - ABC News (Australian

"But then she actually lies down in front of the trap and waits. And she waited for four hours."

The behaviour had never been seen before.

"The fact they arrived together, and that fact that she waited, really implies that they are socialising, travelling together, they know each other, and of course the dogma is that these are solitary animals," Dr Pemberton said.

He said the two animals were possibly hunting together, are siblings, or even mates.

"We also know from the genetics on Maria Island (where a population of devils is being studied) that male and female devils are choosing to breed together over multiple years. In other words, they know each other.

"Considering a devil only lives for six or seven years in the wild, this could imply, through this sort of footage and the genetics, that some of these animals are mating for life."

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The Tasmanian devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) is a carnivorous marsupial of the family Dasyuridae. It was once native to mainland Australia and is now found in the wild only on the island state of Tasmania

Social Worker, PhD student @RMIT & student researcher @BNHCRC. Surf lifesaver. Fiona Jennings. @fionajennings11. Social Worker, PhD student @RMIT & student researcher @BNHCRC. Vision of Tasmanian devil waiting for ' friend ' shocks researchers http

Low birth rates spark new fears

The cameras were set up as part of a monitoring trip to check the genetic diversity in Tasmanian devils in the south-west region.

The species has been pushed to the brink by facial tumour disease, which wiped out about 80 per cent of the wild population across the state.

Now the animals are facing another issue.

Low breeding rates and poor genetic diversity are worrying researchers.

"It's definitely a major threat. It could cause local extinctions, those low levels of breeding unless there is dispersal in from another healthy population," Dr Pemberton said.

Devils have a history of poor genetic diversity, but the problem has been exacerbated by the number of devils killed by cancer.

"Once they get fragmented, via facial tumour disease, if that low breeding, low level of babies holds, then we're going to be looking at extinctions again," he said.

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for - friend - shocks - researchers /10093926 … @abcnews. Our Emergency Research award goes to @bnhcrc for their Managing Animals in Disasters project, led by @mel_taylor48 #EMPAeast pic.twitter.com/9UseAmnA1F.

Vision of Tasmanian devil waiting for ' friend ' shocks researchers . Never-before seen behaviour by Tasmanian devils has been caught on camera, raising questions about the long-held belief that they are solitary creatures.

Low birth rates, however, are also being seen in disease-free populations.

"We know that in the far north-west corner of Tasmania, there's been population decline in the past, without facial tumour disease around," he said.

"Now we're finding in that same population, what we call fecundity — that's the number of babies born every year — has declined dramatically."

He said only 20 per cent or less of female adults were having babies, while they expected 60 to 70 per cent of females to have babies.

It's thought a lack of genetic diversity and inbreeding in the population could be causing the decline.

'It's worth a shot'

The search for answers — and solutions — has brought together a group of researchers from across the country and the world.

University of Sydney geneticist Professor Kathy Belov said researchers felt it was necessary to intervene.

"For a population to survive long-term they need to be genetically robust, there needs to be variation there for them to be able to adjust to changing environments," she said.

"So I guess we really feel that boosting genetic diversity, because we can do that now, is worth a shot."

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About the Tasmanian Devil . As comical as it is, the familiar Looney Tunes portrayal of a Tasmanian devil as a seething, snarling, insatiable lunatic is, at times, not all that far from the truth. Temperament. Tasmanian devils have a notoriously cantankerous disposition and will fly into a maniacal rage when

Groups of devils originally bred as "insurance populations", in case cancer led to the extinction of wild devils, are now being moved to dwindling populations to boost numbers and bring in new genes.

For the third year, devils have been taken from an insurance population on Maria Island and introduced into the wild.

Among those that made the move recently was two-year-old devil Egmont.

"He's just starting his breeding life, so my hope is that he'll go out to his release site and breed with lots of other females out there and create a new generation of genetically diverse devils," Dr Carolyn Hogg, from the University of Sydney, said.

Dr Pemberton said another tactic may be trialled in the state's north-west.

"We'll wait for genetic results, but we're certainly preparing to possibly bring some of those [wild] animals in, breed them and send them back pregnant," he said.

Despite the hurdles, he remains confident of the devils' survival.

"They breed well, they're tough. They're hanging in there. I think between the devils and the effort we're going to, we should be all right," he said.

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