Oral Presentation- Symposium 12th International Mammalogical Congress

Using contact networks to investigate Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease (#116)

David Hamilton 1 , Menna Jones 1 , Elissa Cameron 1 , Rodrigo Hamede 1
  1. University of Tasmania, Hobart, TAS, Australia

Tasmanian devils are under threat from a novel transmissible cancer – devil facial tumour disease (DFTD). This disease spreads between individuals via bite wounds and is almost invariably fatal. The nature of transmission means that the study of patterns of contact within devil populations is vital to fully understanding disease dynamics and how it spreads through populations. We investigate contact networks in a wild Tasmanian devil population and relate networks to bite wounds received by individuals. Bite wounds are vital as they represent those contacts which could lead to disease transmission. We utilise a novel technology, proximity loggers, to record contacts between devils at a distance close enough to bite one another, while through long-term re-trapping we are able to detect when animals pick up new wounds. When investigated in tandem, these facets allow determination of which interaction properties are important for disease transmission and can lead to an increased risk of infection. A more thorough understanding of DFTD and how it spreads through devil populations is critical to its ongoing management.