Survival of gentlest could save devils, according to ABC News in Science 4 September 2012 and DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2656.2012.02025.x.

Tasmanian Devils are small carnivores living in the island state of Tasmania, south of the Australian mainland. The population of Devils has been greatly reduced over the last few decades because of a facial tumour spread by the animals biting one another, and scientists fear they are headed for extinction. Rodrigo Hamede of the University of Tasmania and colleagues studied the pattern of biting injuries and the rates of infection of animals over a four year period at two sites in Tasmania.

They expected that those who had suffered the most bites would be more likely to have the tumour, but their results were the opposite. Animals with fewer bites had more tumours. The tumours mainly occurred in mouths of these animals and the researchers concluded that the animals were infected when they bit other animals that already had tumours, rather than by being bitten by infected animals. This meant the more aggressive animals, which tended to bite other animals more often, were more likely to pick up the tumour cells. Hamede explained: “In most infectious diseases, there are so-called super-spreaders, a few individuals responsible for most transmission events. But we found the more aggressive devils, rather than being super-spreaders, are super-receivers”.

The scientists suggest they could use natural selection to decrease the spread of the tumour. Hamede commented: “if you can confidently define bold and shy phenotypes in a population, you could selectively remove those aggressive devils over a certain period of time. This would decrease competition and give more scope for natural selection to favour shy devils”. The ABC article is entitled Gentler devil’ could be key to survival and summarised the researchers’ hopes as: “The Tasmanian devil could be saved from extinction if it evolves to become less aggressive”.


Editorial Comment: Humans removing the aggressors is not actually “natural” selection, and neither is it evolution. Unnatural selection for sure, i.e. the work of an outside intelligence who has recognised a problem and intervened to impose a solution. And since the Devils show no sign of having been any other kind of creature, and show no sign of changing into another creature – evolution is ruled out also.

The only change we know about Tasmanian Devils is that they used to live all over Australia and they were bigger. The remnant population of small animals that are now confined to Tasmania is the result of downward degenerative processes most probably caused by inbreeding combined with a struggle for existence as the Devils fought one another over carcasses and for mates. Not an evolutionary process at all. On top of that, the tumour itself is the result of degeneration of genes in the cells it arose from, and the spread of the disease is the result of degenerate behaviour.

These animals remind us how far the world has gone downhill since God made the original world “very good” and all animals ate plants (Genesis 1:26 -31). No disease would have been spread by fights over carcasses and a good world included no genetic defects to cause tumours. What a sad and tragic price both we and the devils have paid for man’s rebellion against the Creator.

Tasmanian Devils feature in the Creation Research DVD Darwin’s Evolution; a Very Unnatural Selection. Free preview here.

Evidence News 12 September 2012

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