University of Tasmania
142318-Changes in spatial organization following an acute epizootic Tasmanian devils and their transmissible cancer.pdf (1.09 MB)

Changes in spatial organization following an acute epizootic: Tasmanian devils and their transmissible cancer

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journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 20:09 authored by Comte, S, Scott CarverScott Carver, Rodrigo Hamede RossRodrigo Hamede Ross, Menna JonesMenna Jones
Epidemiological studies commonly monitor host population density but rarely account for how transmission dynamics might be influenced by changes in spatial and social organization that arise from high mortality altering population demography. Devil facial tumour disease (DFTD), a novel transmissible cancer, caused almost 100% mortality of its single host, the Tasmanian devil, and a >90% local population decline since its emergence 20 years ago. We compare size and overlap in home ranges in a devil population before and 15 years after disease outbreak. We used location data collected with VHF tracking collars in 2001 and GPS collars in the same area in 2015 and 2016. Density of adult devils, calculated from live trapping data in the same years, show a strong decrease following the disease outbreak. The decline in density was accompanied by a reduction in female home range size, a trend not observed for males. Both spatially explicit population modelling and animal tracking showed a decrease in female home range overlap following the DFTD outbreak. These changes in spatial organisation of the host population have the potential to alter the local transmission dynamic of the tumours. Our results are consistent with the general theory of sex-biased spatial organization mediated by resource availability and highlight the importance of incorporating spatial ecology into epidemiological studies.


National Institutes of Health


Publication title

Global Ecology and Conservation



Article number







School of Natural Sciences


Elsevier BV

Place of publication


Rights statement

Copyright 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license

Repository Status

  • Open

Socio-economic Objectives

Control of pests, diseases and exotic species in terrestrial environments; Terrestrial biodiversity