Health See Inside The Tasmanian Devil's Cancer: Could Contagious Tumors Affect Humans? A contagious tumor threatens to wipe out the famous Tasmanian devil. Could similarly "catching" cancers arise in humans, too? By Menna E. Jones and Hamish McCallum Getty Images Love bites on the neck of the young female Tasmanian devil in my lap tell me she has recently had a sexual encounter. They also indicate something ominous: she might well be dead before she can raise her first litter of pups. I (Jones) am sitting on the ground holding a devil that I trapped in Freycinet National Park on the eastern coast of Tasmania—a wild jewel of an island to the south of the mainland of Australia. It was here, in 2001, that I first witnessed a hideous disease that causes large, festering tumors on the face of these marsupials, impairing feeding and routinely killing them within six months of infection. Today the Freycinet population has almost disappeared—a reflection of what is happening across most of the animal’s range. First detected in 1996, up in the northeastern corner of the island, the cancer—now known to be contagious—has reduced devil populations across Tasmania by up to 95 percent, pushing the species, which lives only on this island, to the edge of extinction. This is only a preview. Get the rest of this article now! Select an option below: Buy Digital Issue Customer Sign In *You must have purchased this issue or have a qualifying subscription to access this content It has been identified that the institution you are trying to access this article from has institutional site license access to Scientific American on nature.com. Click here to access this article in its entirety through site license access. ADVERTISEMENT Scientific American is a trademark of Scientific American, Inc., used with permission © 2015 Scientific American, a Division of Nature America, Inc. All Rights Reserved.