The menagerie of exotic native animals Australia can proudly claim as its own has grown by one – with Australian researchers proving dingoes aren’t dogs.
No, you’re not barking mad and read that right.
Rather than a domesticated dog that arrived with humans and later became feral, as has been long thought, dingoes are a distinct wild animal.
Lead researcher, Dr Bradley Smith from CQUniversity, says the dingoes’ evolution split from domestic and feral dogs – as well as canids like wolves and foxes — five to 10 thousand years ago.
“The dingo has been geographically isolated from all other canids, and genetic mixing has only occurred recently, and probably driven by human interventions,” Dr Smith says.
“We show that dingoes have survived in Australia for thousands of years…and largely in the absence of human intervention or aid.
“To label the dingo as a ‘feral domestic dog’, ignores their unique, long and quintessentially wild history.
“The dingo is uncontestably Australian.”
The researchers argue the distinct classification warrants a conservation rethink.
Study co-author, Professor Corey Bradshaw from Flinders University, says the classification of dingoes has serious consequences for the fragile ecosystems they inhabit.
“Dingoes play a vital ecological role in Australia by outcompeting and displacing noxious introduced predators like feral cats and foxes,” Professor Bradshaw says.
“When dingoes are left alone, there are fewer feral predators eating native marsupials, birds and lizards.
“Dingoes can also increase profits for cattle graziers, because they target and eat kangaroos that otherwise compete with cattle for grass in semi-arid pasture lands.”
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