Tasmanian Devils are not the whirlwind of fun Looney Tunes would lead you to believe. They are actually malodorous, vicious scavengers who would eat your face while you were sleeping if you tried to be their friend. So it may come as a relief that they are now an endangered species on the verge of extinction. While I was in Australia this summer, they had signs like this posted all over the zoo warning people about an epidemic which bears the catchy name “Devil Facial Tumor Disease.” Initially it was thought to be transmitted in the same way as HPV (a carcinogenic virus, that is) but further investigation found it was actually an extremely rare form of cancer which is contagious in and of itself. The only other tumor of its kind is found on dog penises.
The cancer is spread when the Devils bite one another’s faces while ravenously eating raw meat or having rough sex in a tornado of dust. Eventually their faces become so engorged with oozing clusters of cancer cells that they can no longer eat and starve to death.
It has also recently been found that the disease can be transmitted from Devil to human and then openly across human populations. There is no known treatment so you have to ask yourself should you get bitten: would you do the responsible thing and live out your days isolated in the woods, or would you bite the faces
of everyone you know in furious rampage?
I actually made that part up, but the rest is true.
PS: You can click here to see a big picture of the effects of Devil Facial Tumor Disease if you're into grossing yourself out and are listening to a Boyd Rice CD right now or something.