Tasmanian Devils: Extinction, not Macroevolution | The Institute for Creation Research
Tasmanian Devils: Extinction, not Macroevolution

Tasmanian devils are breeding at younger ages, and researchers at the University of Tasmania in Australia believe the phenomenon is caused by an evolutionary response to the cancer that is devastating these small marsupials.

Devil facial tumor disease (DFTD) is a contagious form of cancer that has been infecting the animals since 1996.1 Tasmanian devils are carnivorous marsupials of the family Dasyuridae. These nocturnal predators are found exclusively on the island of Tasmania and are comprised of about 50 species. They have a normal life span of five to six years, usually breeding around the ages of two or three. However, since the disease is cutting their total years down to two or three, most females would ordinarily not live to rear their first litter.

Since the onset of the epidemic, Tasmanian devils have begun to breed as early as age one. “We could be seeing evolution occurring before our eyes. Watch this space!” zoologist Menna Jones of the university said in an interview with the Associated Press (AP).2 She has been studying the animals’ life cycles since before the disease outbreak and recently reported her findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.3 “What we are suggesting in this paper is that there is likely to be strong selection for rapid evolution…It was an exciting discovery,” she told the AP reporter.

Rather than acknowledging the detrimental pathological conditions such as cancer or mutations encountered in this particular population, Jones and other scientists interpret the situation as a demonstration of the upward-and-onward process of macroevolution. From the non-Darwinian standpoint, however, what we are seeing is not evolutionary progress in Tasmanian devils, but tragic extinction. Some zoologists feel there will be no more Tasmanian devils in a quarter century due to DFTD.

Jones believes that the population decline may be slowed by the animals’ breeding at a younger age. Even if that happens, the Tasmanian devils will remain Tasmanian devils—the same genus, the same species. A more logical explanation for the earlier breeding may be that the Creator provided this type of adaptive response to the threat of disease, just as He provided for adaptability within each animal kind for climate, diet, and other conditions.

Does the life and death struggle of the Tasmanian devil demonstrate “strong selection for rapid evolution”? On the contrary, what the evidence actually shows is not “evolution occurring before our eyes,” but the slow extinction of a created kind.

References

  1. Siddle, H. et al. 2007. Transmission of a fatal clonal tumor by biting occurs due to depleted MHC diversity in a threatened carnivorous marsupial. Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences 104 (41): 16221-16226.
  2. Schmid, R. Cancer forces Tasmanian devils to breed earlier. Associated Press. Posted online July 15, 2008, accessed July 17, 2008.
  3. Jones, M. et al. 2008. Life-history change in disease-ravaged Tasmanian devil populations. Proceeding of the National Academy of Sciences. Published ahead of print July 14, 2008, accessed July 17, 2008.

* Mr. Sherwin is Senior Science Lecturer.

Article posted on July 22, 2008.

The Latest
NEWS
Embarrassment Continues over Evolutionary Blunder about “Junk...
Recent research from the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) continues to highlight how evolutionary theory influenced...

NEWS
God’s Plan Is Best: Salmon Need Saltwater Acclimation
Once again, results are better when aquaculture imitates the natural life cycle of Atlantic salmon.1,2 In other words, the closer fish farmers...

NEWS
Inside August 2020 Acts & Facts
Have you heard about ICR’s new President and Chief Operating Officer, Dr. Randy Guliuzza? What can we learn from an old prayer? Is creation evidence...

NEWS
After 30 Years, Red Kites Soar in British Skies
Good news is always welcome. So, it’s good to learn of another conservation comeback. This time it’s the red kite happily soaring in Great...

CREATION PODCAST
Meet Dr. G
Hear the history and heart of ICR’s newly appointed President and Chief Operating Officer, Dr. Randy Guliuzza. He has served as ICR’s National...

ACTS & FACTS
'Doing Business' in Good Times and Bad
No doubt many of you, like me, have been earnestly looking for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. He called all believers to be godly “salt”...

APOLOGETICS
Sentinels Are Needed in Perilous Times
Watch out! Dangers lurk everywhere—these are surely perilous times.1 One of the apologetics-exhorting themes in Jude’s epistle...

ACTS & FACTS
Why Don't Raindrops Bomb Butterfly Wings?
Okay, I admit most folks have probably not thought to ask this creation question. But a bigger question gets answered when we examine the fantastic...

ACTS & FACTS
Believe Anyway
by Scott Arledge and Brian Thomas, Ph.D. Some within the creation community make the claim that they would believe God’s Word about the age...

DISCOVERY CENTER
The ICR Discovery Center for Science & Earth History Updates*
Plan your trip at ICRdiscoverycenter.org, where you’ll find ticket information, discounted rates for nearby hotels, and links to other...