Tasmanian devils aren't just hyperactive on Looney Toons. Seems a fatal facial cancer coursing through the population has driven the much-maligned marsupials to procreate earlier than normal. The devils—named for Tasmania, the Australian island off the continent's southeastern coast, where they reside—live an average of five years and typically begin mating when they've reached adulthood at around two years of age. But researchers at the University of Tasmania report in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA that the animals are mating by or before the age of one—some 16 times more frequently than they did before the disease was detected a decade ago. Unfortunately, the researchers say this race against the clock isn't doing the trick: Tasmanian devil populations continue to decline, dropping by up to 89 percent from what they were 10 years ago in some groups. The scientists hope, however, breeding early and often will buy the animals time and beat the cancer.
(Picture: © Istockphoto/Leo Stanners)