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The myth of wild dogs in Australia: are there any out there?


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Hybridisation between wild and domestic canids is a global conservation and management issue. In Australia, dingoes are a distinct lineage of wild-living canid with a controversial domestication status. They are mainland Australia’s apex terrestrial predator. There is ongoing concern that the identity of dingoes has been threatened from breeding with domestic dogs, and that feral dogs have established populations in rural Australia. We collate the results of microsatellite DNA testing from 5039 wild canids to explore patterns of domestic dog ancestry in dingoes and observations of feral domestic dogs across the continent. Only 31 feral dogs were detected, challenging the perception that feral dogs are widespread in Australia. First generation dingo × dog hybrids were similarly rare, with only 27 individuals identified. Spatial patterns of genetic ancestry across Australia identified that dingo populations in northern, western and central Australia were largely free from domestic dog introgression. Our findings challenge the perception that dingoes are virtually extinct in the wild and that feral dogs are common. A shift in terminology from wild dog to dingo would better reflect the identity of these wild canids and allow more nuanced debate about the balance between conservation and management of dingoes in Australia.
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The myth of wild dogs in Australia: are there any out there?
Kylie M. Cairns
,Mathew S. Crowther
,Bradley Nesbitt
Mike Letnic
Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences,
University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.
Evolution and Ecology Research Centre, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences,
University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052, Australia.
School of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.
School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2350, Australia.
Corresponding author. Email:
Abstract. Hybridisation between wild and domestic canids is a global conservation and management issue. In Australia,
dingoes are a distinct lineage of wild-living canid with a controversial domestication status. They are mainland Australia’s
apex terrestrial predator. There is ongoing concern that the identity of dingoes has been threatened from breeding with
domestic dogs, and that feral dogs have established populations in rural Australia. We collate the results of microsatellite
DNA testing from 5039 wild canids to explore patterns of domestic dog ancestry in dingoes and observations of feral
domestic dogs across the continent. Only 31 feral dogs were detected, challenging the perception that feral dogs are
widespread in Australia. First generation dingo dog hybrids were similarly rare, with only 27 individuals identified.
Spatial patterns of genetic ancestry across Australia identified that dingo populations in northern, western and central
Australia were largely free from domestic dog introgression. Our findings challenge the perception that dingoes are
virtually extinct in the wild and that feral dogs are common. A shift in terminology from wild dog to dingo would better
reflect the identity of these wild canids and allow more nuanced debate about the balance between conservation and
management of dingoes in Australia.
Keywords: admixture, Australia, Canis dingo,Canis familiaris, dingo, dog, domestication, feral dog, introgression, wild dog.
Received 17 August 2020, accepted 26 February 2021, published online 26 March 2021
The occurrence of feral domestic dogs is rare, and distinct from
the close to a billion free-breeding or village dogs that exist
globally (Gompper 2013;Pilot et al. 2015). Free-breeding or
village dogs are those that live in and around human settlements,
rely upon anthropogenic food or water sources, breed freely with
each other, and are not owned or cared for by people (Hughes
and Macdonald 2013). Feral dogs are those that are living in a
wild state not in the vicinity of human settlements: they may be
escaped pets or self-sustaining populations. Empirical data from
remote living free-breeding dog populations suggests these
populations rely upon recruitment from stray or owned dogs
because their reproductive success is low, i.e. pups rarely
survive past 1 year (Boitani et al. 1995,2006). The only
acknowledged example of a true wild-living self-sustaining feral
dog population occurred in the Gala´pagos; it was founded by a
variety of breeds in the 1800s and persisted until the 1980s
(Barnett 1986;Reponen et al. 2014). Despite there being a
robust population of free-breeding or stray dogs associated with
towns in the Gala´pagos, there was limited evidence of mixing
between the free-breeding dog and feral dog populations based
on genetic analysis (Reponen et al. 2014). The Gala´pagos feral
dog population was eradicated using 1080 poisoning of water
and meat baits in the 1980s (Barnett 1986) and the population
did not re-establish despite the presence of free-breeding and pet
dogs in nearby human settlements.
Dingoes, including New Guinea singing dogs, form a discrete
lineage from Eurasian and modern domestic dogs (Bergstro¨m
et al. 2020;Surbakti et al. 2020;Cairns 2021). Their domestica-
tion status and taxonomic nomenclature is disputed, with some
considering them Canis familiaris, a feral domestic dog (Jackson
et al. 2017,2019) and others calling them Canis dingo, a wild
protodog (Crowther et al. 2014;Smith et al. 2019;Zhang et al.
2020). Globally, most free-breeding, village and breed dogs fall
within the modern domestic dog lineage (Bergstro¨m et al. 2020;
Surbakti et al. 2020;Cairns 2021). A close relationship between
dingoes, Asian wolves, and some East Asian dogs has been
observed, suggesting the dingoes’ ancestor was of Asian origin
(vonHoldt et al. 2010;Oskarsson et al. 2011;Freedman et al.
2014;Surbakti et al. 2020;Zhang et al. 2020;Cairns 2021).
Dingoes and New Guineasinging dogs are examples of true wild-
living dogs that are not reliant on artificial water or food sources.
Australian Mammalogy
Journal compilation Australian Mammal Society 2021
Dingoes fill the ecological role of terrestrial apex predator on
mainland Australia (Newsome et al. 2001;Letnic and Koch
2010;Letnic et al. 2012;Letnic et al. 2013;Morrant et al. 2017).
Molecular dating indicates that dingoes and New Guinea singing
dogs diverged from their ancestral population approximately
8000–12 000 years ago (Cairns and Wilton 2016;Cairns et al.
2017;Zhang et al. 2020). Dingoes remained reproductively
isolated from domestic dogs until 1788.
There is rising global concern about the occurrence of
hybridisation between wild and domestic canids or sympatric
wild canids (Gopalakrishnan et al. 2018;Salvatori et al. 2020;
vonHoldt and Aardema 2020). Hybridisation is the process of
interbreeding between two species or varieties, generally F1
offspring would be referred to as hybrids and the offspring of F1
hybrids with animals from a parental species or variety would be
called backcrosses. Interbreeding between varieties or species
results in the exchange or mixing of genetic material (genetic
admixture). The transfer of genetic material from one species
into another through hybridisation and backcrossing is called
introgression (Harrison and Larson 2014). The occurrence of
genetic admixture may be modern or historical, and in some
cases is the result of anthropogenic actions. In canids, the
phenomenon of interspecific introgression has been observed
between species such as grey wolves and dogs (Vila` and Wayne
1999;Anderson et al. 2009;vonHoldt et al. 2011,2016;
Schweizer et al. 2018), coyotes and wolves (Bohling et al.
2016;vonHoldt et al. 2016), red wolves and coyotes (Miller
et al. 2003;Adams et al. 2007;Schmutz et al. 2007;Bohling and
Waits 2015), jackals and dogs (Galov et al. 2015), dingoes and
dogs (Newsome and Corbett 1985;Wilton 2001;Claridge et al.
2014;Stephens et al. 2015;Cairns et al. 2019).
One of the concerns raised by hybridisation is genetic swamp-
ing, whereby the genetic identity of a population is threatened by
introgression of genes from another population or species. For
example, the Scottish wildcat is threatened by hybridisation and
subsequent introgression from domestic cats to the extent that
contemporary wildcat populations exhibit extensive levels of
domestic cat ancestry (Daniels et al. 1998;Kitchener et al. 2005;
Macdonald et al. 2010). Indeed, most wildcats in Scotland carry
significant domestic cat ancestry, and the occurrence of hybridisa-
tion is believed to have accelerated in the last 50–100 years
(Mattucci et al. 2019;Senn et al. 2019). Similar concerns have
been raised in Australia with many dingoes, particularly in
southeastern Australia, exhibiting genetic, morphological or
phenotypic evidence of domestic dog ancestry (Newsome and
Corbett 1985;Daniels and Corbett 2003;Jones 2009;Stephens
et al. 2015). There is also widespread concern that feral domestic
dogs have established in the wild across Australia (Fleming et al.
2001;NSW Threatened Species Scientific Committee 2009).
Since the 1980s rising concern about domestic dog ancestry
and the occurrence of hybridisation events has led to shifts in the
management and conservation status of dingoes but also a
duality in their identity. For example, in Victoria dingoes are
now listed as a threatened species, but wild dogs are listed as a
declared pest, where wild dogs are defined as feral or wild
populations of dogs (Canis familiaris) and dingo dog hybrids
(Canis dingo Canis familiaris)(DEPI 2013). In New South
Wales (NSW), the listing of ‘predation and hybridisation by
feral dogs (Canis familiaris)’ as a key threatening process
implies that dingoes are ‘under serious decline as a consequence
of hybridisation’ (NSW Threatened Species Scientific Commit-
tee 2009). Indeed, there has been concern in NSW that feral dogs
and dingo dog hybrids with low levels of dingo ancestry have
essentially replaced dingoes in the wild (Claridge et al. 2014;
Stephens et al. 2015). For example, the NSW key threatening
process determination states that ‘due to the constant influx of
Domestic Dogs into natural ecosystems, lasting eradication of
even local populations of Feral Dogs is difficult’ (NSW Threat-
ened Species Scientific Committee 2009). Accordingly, the term
‘wild dog’ is now used ubiquitously by state government and pest
control organisations when communicating about management
programs directed at controlling wild canids (Letnic 2012;
Kreplins et al. 2019). However, it is clear from social studies of
public perception and also expectations about the management of
dingoes vs wild dogs, that the general public believe the term wild
dog refers only to feral dogs and does not properly understand that
the term wild dog is defined as including dingoes, dingo dog
hybrids and feral dogs (van Eeden et al. 2020).
Before the 2000s a majority of our knowledge about
dingo dog hybridisation was based on assessment of skull
morphology and physical appearance (Newsome et al. 1980;
Newsome and Corbett 1985;Jones 1990;Corbett 2001;Fleming
et al. 2001). A microsatellite DNA test for assessing the ancestry
of dingoes was developed in 1999 (Wilton et al. 1999;Wilton
2001) and has since become widely used by wildlife managers
and conservation groups. Studies assessing the reliability of
morphological, physical and genetic methods of ancestry assess-
ment in dingoes have highlighted the importance of using
genetic data (Elledge et al. 2008;Parr et al. 2016). Stephens
et al. (2015) undertook microsatellite DNA testing of wild
canids across Australia and identified regional patterns of
domestic dog introgression in dingoes, with dog ancestry par-
ticularly prevalent in southeastern Australia. However, a major
limitation of Stephens et al. (2015) is the low number of samples
(95) from NSW. A more detailed study using the same genetic
markers and significantly higher density of sampling across
northeastern NSW identified several key hotspots of high dingo
ancestry (Cairns et al. 2019). Their finding that a majority of
wild dingoes in NSW were pure dingoes or carried more than
75% dingo ancestry is a stark contrast to the common public
perception that feral dogs are widespread and established in the
wild (NSW Threatened Species Scientific Committee 2009;
Claridge et al. 2014;ABC Landline 2019). Here we collate
and analyse genetic ancestry data based on microsatellite DNA
testing from 5039 samples to examine the occurrence of feral
dogs and F1 or F2 dingo dog hybrids across Australia.
Critically, this study includes a broader set of samples from
southeastern Australia including from southern NSW filling
knowledge gaps about the ancestry and identity of wild canids
in southeastern Australia. Spatial patterns of domestic dog
introgression across Australia are also examined using the
dataset. These data inform ongoing debate about the appropriate
terminology and management of wild canids in Australia.
Methods and materials
DNA testing based on a widely used 23 microsatellite marker set
was used to estimate dingo ancestry in Stephens et al. (2015),
BAustralian Mammalogy K. M. Cairns et al.
Cairns et al. (2019) and a previously unpublished dataset (available
in the BioStudies database under accession number S-BSST501 Briefly, a
panel of 23 microsatellites were amplified and genotyped in
the wild canid samples based on the original methodology of
Wilton (2001) and Elledge (2008). Ancestry modelling was
performed in STRUCTURE with reference populations of
known dingoes and dogs using the admixture and correlated
allele frequency models. Cairns et al. (2019) and the unpub-
lished dataset used a set of 50 dingoes and 66 mixed breed dogs
as reference populations; to account for regional variation these
analyses included a set of 13 wild dingoes from northern and
western Australia. Stephens et al. (2015) used a set of 322 post-
priori identified reference dingoes and 102 domestic dogs. In all
three studies simulations were run with 200 000 iterations, a
20 000 iteration burn-in period and 10 replicates of each K ¼2
was performed. Previously, modelling demonstrated that K ¼2
was the appropriate model for assessing ancestry in Australian
wild canids and modelling was run with the USEPOPINFO flag
to allow population allele frequencies to be updated only from
the defined reference population individuals (Stephens et al.
2015;Cairns et al. 2019). STRUCTURE reports estimated
ancestry proportions (q-values) for each genetic cluster for each
sample (Stephens et al. 2015;Cairns et al. 2019). In a K ¼2
analysis each individual has a q-value for the domestic dog
cluster and for the dingo cluster. The dingo cluster q-value is
used to define animals as either a pure dingo, probable dingo,
dingo with .75% ancestry, dingo with 65–75% ancestry, dingo
with 50–65% ancestry, feral dog hybrid or feral domestic dog
(Table 1;Stephens et al. 2015;Cairns et al. 2019). We define
feral dog hybrids with a q-value between 0.25 and 0.49 to be
possible F1 or F2 dingo dog hybrids (Stephens et al. 2015;
Cairns et al. 2019). An F1 hybrid is defined as the offspring of a
dingo a dog and an F2 hybrid is the offspring of two F1
dingo dog hybrids.
Raw microsatellite data could not be compared because of
slightly different microsatellite amplification conditions. To
confirm that ancestry estimates were equivalent between Cairns
et al. (2019) and Stephens et al. (2015), a set of 13 wild canids
were genotyped and ancestry estimates calculated by both
laboratories (Table 2).
Between the three-studies DNA ancestry estimates from 5039
wild canids collected by trappers, wildlife managers and govern-
ment agencies across public and private lands in Australia were
reported. A majority of the wild canids were trapped/shot as part
of broadscale wild canid management to protect livestock from
predation. Samples from the three datasets were collected
between 1996 and 2014. We collated these DNA ancestry
estimates (STRUCTURE q-values) together with location coor-
dinates (Supplementary Material S1 dataset).
Table 1. Dingo purity categories and cut offs for average 3Q and STRUCTURE methods
Score Category Average 3Q
value and
doglike allele cut offs
q-value cut offs
1 Dingo 1 (dingo with no dog ancestry) 3Q .0.1 and no doglike alleles 1.0–0.90
2 Dingo 2 (likely dingo with no dog ancestry) 0.05 ,3Q ,0.1 and #1 doglike alleles 0.89–0.80
3 Dingo with dog ancestry 1 (.75% dingo) 0 ,3Q ,0.05 0.79–0.70
4 Dingo with dog ancestry 2 (65–75% dingo) 0.1 ,3Q ,0 0.69–0.60
5 Dingo with dog ancestry 3 (50–64% dingo) 0.25 ,3Q ,0.1 0.59–0.50
6 Feral dog with dingo ancestry (,50% dingo) 0.5 ,3Q ,0.25 0.49–0.25
7 Feral dog 3Q ,0.5 0.24–0.0
According to Wilton (2001) and Wilton et al. (1999).
According to Stephens et al. (2015).
Table 2. Comparison of STRUCTURE q-value ancestry estimates for 13 repeated samples from Stephens et al. (2015) and Cairns et al. (2019)
Ancestry modelling from Cairns et al. (2019) Ancestry modelling from Stephens et al. (2015) Difference between
Cairns et al. (2019) and
Stephens et al. (2015) q-value
ID # markers dingo ancestry
ID # markers dingo ancestry
W0021 23 0.87 wdi0053 23 0.83 0.04
W0022 22 0.88 wdi0163 23 0.89 –0.01
W0023 22 0.94 wdi0627 23 0.93 0.01
W0024 23 0.92 wdi0840 21 0.99 –0.07
W0025 22 0.89 wdi1736 23 0.96 –0.07
W0026 22 0.92 wdi1811 23 0.89 0.03
W0027 23 0.92 wdi1884 23 0.94 –0.02
W0028 22 0.77 wdi2397 23 0.77 0.00
W0029 22 0.96 di0910 23 0.92 0.04
W0030 23 0.89 di1050 23 0.9 –0.01
W0031 23 0.89 di1270 23 0.88 0.01
W0033 22 0.94 de013 22 0.94 0.00
W0034 23 0.92 de017 22 0.94 –0.02
The wild dog myth Australian Mammalogy C
The distribution of feral dogs with no dingo ancestry and
possible F1 or F2 dingo dog hybrids was mapped using QGIS
ver. 3.01 (QGIS 2020). We also explore the distribution of
dingoes with varying degrees of dog ancestry across Australia as
follows: the location of 5039 samples with DNA ancestry results
were mapped in QGIS, a 0.3 0.3 degree hexagonal grid was
drawn and the mean and median ‘q-score’ of the samples within
each grid cell was calculated (using the join attributes by
location tool). We also mapped the occurrence of feral dogs
with no dingo ancestry and possible F1 or F2 dingo dog
hybrids across Australia.
We collated the ancestry results of 3641 samples from Stephens
et al. (2015), 753 samples from Cairns et al. (2019) and 611
samples from the unpublished dataset. Ancestry estimates were
consistent between Stephens et al. (2015) and Cairns et al. (2019)
based on comparison of results for 13 repeated samples (Table 2).
Out of 5039 samples that were DNA tested the breakdown
of dingo ancestry results are as follows: 33.7% pure dingoes,
30.4% probable dingoes, 19.8% greater than75% dingo ancestry,
11.7% greater than 65% dingo ancestry and 3.2% greater than
50% dingo ancestry (Table 3). Feral dogs and F1 or F2 dingo-dog
hybrids were rarely collected from the wild and made up less
than 1.2% of the wild canid population (Table 3). In total, only
31 feral dogs with no evidence of dingo ancestry were observed
and27probableF1orF2dingodog hybrids (q-value between
0.25 and 0.49) were identified in the sample. The occurrence of
dog introgression differed between states (Fig. 1) and was more
prevalent in southeastern Australia.
Table 3. Ancestry of 5039 wild canids across Australia according to STRUCTURE modelling by Stephens et al. (2015),Cairns et al. (2019) and
this study
Category WA SA NT Qld NSW Vic. ACT Australia
Dingo 1 (dingo with
no dog ancestry)
61.9% (1414) 34.5% (51) 88.2% (112) 21.9% (78) 2.2% (29) 1.1% (8) 5.8% (6) 33.7% (1698)
Dingo 2 (likely dingo
with no dog ancestry)
35.0% (799) 56.8% (84) 10.2% (13) 46.6% (166) 23.8% (314) 16.8% (118) 35.6% (37) 30.4% (1531)
Dingo 1 and 2 (dingoes
with no dog ancestry
96.9% (2213) 91.2% (135) 98.4% (125) 68.5% (244) 26% (343) 17.9% (126) 41.3% (43) 64.1% (3229)
Dingo with dog ancestry
1(.75% dingo)
2.3% (52) 8.8% (13) 0.8% (1) 23.6% (84) 39.5% (521) 40.5% (284) 41.3% (43) 19.8% (998)
Dingo with dog ancestry
2 (65–75% dingo)
0.02% (1) 0 0.8% (1) 4.8% (17) 25.6% (337) 32.1% (225) 10.6% (11) 11.7% (592)
Dingo with dog ancestry
3 (50–64% dingo)
0.02% (1) 0 0 2.2% (8) 7.4% (97) 7.7% (54) 1.9% (2) 3.2% (162)
Feral dog with dingo
ancestry (,50% dingo)
0.2% (5) 0 0 0.6% (2) 0.9% (12) 1.1% (8) 0 0.5% (27)
Feral dog 0.5% (12) 0 0 0.3% (1) 0.6% (8) 0.7% (5) 4.8% (5) 0.6% (31)
Feral dog (no dingo)
Feral dog (<50% dingo)
Dingo (>50% dingo)
Dingo (>65% dingo)
Dingo (>75% dingo)
Pure dingo (1 and 2)
Fig. 1. Proportion of Australian wild canids that were pure dingoes, dingoes with domestic dog introgression, possible F1 dingo dog
hybrids, and feral domestic dogs, by state.
DAustralian Mammalogy K. M. Cairns et al.
Mapping of wild canid ancestry across Australia indicates that
domestic dog introgression is largely restricted to southeastern
Australia (Fig. 2; Supplementary Material S2). Across northern,
central and western Australia,the dingo population is genetically
intact, i.e. with limited or no domestic dog introgression. In
southeastern Australia there are regions with dingo populations
that are genetically intact (Fig. 2) and most populations maintain
a dingo-dominant identity (median ancestry is greater than 75%
dingo). Feral dogs were restricted mostly to southeastern Aus-
tralia and were captured in relatively close proximity to human
settlements (Fig. 2). Interestingly, no feral dogs were identified in
central Australia.
Extensive DNA testing across Australia detected very few feral
dogs. Out of the 5039 wild canids that were sampled just 31
(0.61%) were inferred to be feral dogs (Table 3). Similarly, there
were only 27 animals identified as likely F1 or F2 dingo dog
hybrids. Contrary to widespread understanding, our results show
that feral dogs and feral dog dingo hybrids were very rare
across mainland Australia. This suggests that feral dogs have not
established a self-sustaining population in the wild and that inter-
breeding between dingoes and dogs may occur infrequently.
Our finding that feral dogs were rare and are unlikely to have
established a self-sustaining population on mainland Australia is
backed up by the rarity of true feral dog populations globally. In
Tasmania, there is a similar mix of European derived dog breeds
to mainland Australia and a similar environment to southeastern
Australia but there is little evidence that a feral dog population
has become established (DPIPWE 2013). The rarity of true feral
dogs both globally and in Australia suggests that domestic dogs
have not retained the ability to persist in the wild in the absence
of anthropogenic derived resources. Indeed, the Gala´ pagos
remains an isolated exemplar of domestic dogs establishing a
feral population (Barnett 1986;Reponen et al. 2014). However,
free breeding (‘village or camp dogs’) that rely on anthropogenic
food and water sources are of widespread occurrence in many
regions of the world (Gompper 2013;Home et al. 2018).
In Australia, free-breeding dogs are largely restricted to the
fringes of Indigenous communities (Collins and Mills 2013;
Newsome et al. 2013,2014;Hudson et al. 2018;Brookes et al.
2020;Ma et al. 2020).
Our collation of DNA ancestry testing results suggests that
most wild canids in Australia are pure dingoes (Fig. 1). Dog
introgression is uncommon in Western Australia, the Northern
Territory and South Australia, with more than of 90% of dingoes
tested in those states being pure dingoes. Of the dingoes which did
show domestic dog introgression, most carried more than 75%
dingo ancestry. No F1 or F2 dingo dog hybrids were observed in
the Northern Territory or South Australia. In Queensland, 68.5%
of wild canids were pure dingoes and a majority of the remaining
carried greater than 75% dingo ancestry. Only 7% of wild canids
in Queensland were less than 65% dingo, and 0.8% were feral
dogs or possible F1 or F2 dingo domestic dog hybrids.
As highlighted by Stephens et al. (2015), dog introgression is
most widespread in southeastern Australia (Fig. 2). Despite this,
the occurrence of possible F1 or F2 dingo dog hybrids was low
in southeastern Australia, making up less than 2% of the total
population inthese regions.It may be that dingo dog hybridisa-
tion events are rare in the wild or that the survival of wild canids
with less than 50% dingo ancestry is poor. The widespread
introgression of dog genes in southeastern Australia may reflect
backcrossing of F1 dingo dog hybrids, facilitating the spread of
dog genes into the wider dingo population over long periods of
time rather than a high occurrence of dingo dog hybridisation in
the wild. As emphasised by Stephens et al. (2015), dog introgres-
sion in dingoes may be more common in southeastern Australia
due to the earlier and more intensive European settlement,
resulting in increased contact between domestic dogs and dingoes
in these regions. Cairns et al. (2019) added that the widespread
occurrence of intensive lethal control, particularly aerial baiting,
may increase the likelihood of dingo dog hybridisation by
Pure dingo
Dingo (>75% ancestry)
Dingo (65–75% ancestry)
Dingo (50–65% ancestry)
No samples present
0 250 500 750 1000 km 0 250 500 750 1000 km
Feral dog (no dingo ancestry)
Feral dog (possible F1 dingo ×
dog hybrid)
Feral dog (no dingo ancestry)
Feral dog (possible F1 dingo ×
dog hybrid)
Fig. 2. Spatial patterns of dingo ancestry across Australia based on microsatellite DNA testing. (a) Median ancestry calculated for all samples within
each hex grid. As the results were consistent between mean and median ancestry, the map depicting mean ancestry is presented in Supplementary
Material S2. (b) Distribution of 31 feral domestic dogs and 27 feral dog hybrids (possible F1 or F2 dingo dog hybrids) across Australia. The positions
of the national dingo exclusion fence and the Western Australian dingo exclusion fence are depicted by solid black lines.
The wild dog myth Australian Mammalogy E
fracturing dingo social structures. Although this admixture from
dogs into the dingo population is a concern, it is important to note
that the dingo population still maintains a genetically and
morphologically dingo dominantidentity (Parr et al. 2016;Cairns
et al. 2019;Crowther et al. 2020).
There are several key knowledge gaps about the identity of
dingoes in Australia that bear consideration. First, we still lack
information about the genetic identity of dingoes across large
regions of Australia, particularly central and northern Australia
(Fig. 2). Morphological research about the phenotype of dingoes
with low levels of dog ancestry may assist on-ground manage-
ment and conservation efforts, particularly if distinguishing
features could be identified. Management plans should be
careful not to assume that a given population does or does not
carry domestic dog ancestry without the necessary genetic data.
Despite this, the broad pattern of dingo ancestry across Australia
suggests that in western, central and northern Australia, dog
introgression is likely to be limited and feral dogs extremely
rare. There is some concern that current microsatellite testing
methods may be biased by regional genetic variation within
dingoes (Cairns et al. 2017,2019). It is important to consider that
ancestry testing methods rely on the assumption that dingoes
form a single homogeneous population (Elledge et al. 2008;
Stephens et al. 2015;Cairns et al. 2019), an assumption we now
know to be false (Cairns and Wilton 2016;Cairns et al. 2018;
Koungoulos 2020). Robust dingo ancestry assessments require
broad sampling across Australia to capture regional genetic
variation (Cairns et al. 2019). Possibly some dingoes are mis-
classified as hybrids because of regional variation. As argued by
Cairns et al. (2019), the type and number of genetic markers
limits accuracy of genetic testing and estimates based on 23
microsatellites may not reflect genome-wide ancestry. Genome-
wide SNP genotyping may offer a cost-effective and high-
throughput alternative to address the limitations of microsatel-
lite genetic testing in the future. Thus, we caution managers and
researchers to evaluate the reliability of ancestry estimates and
urge end-users to explore technology improvements for ancestry
testing into the future.
There has been ongoing debate about the appropriate termi-
nology for wild canids in Australia, i.e. dingo or wild dog (Letnic
2012). Kreplins et al. (2019) found that the term wild dog was
more commonly used in studies funded by livestock industry
organisations, compared to conservation-based studies which
predominately used the term dingo. van Eeden et al. (2020)
studied public understanding of the terms dingo and wild dog.
They found that only 19.1% of respondents were aware that wild
dog control programs targeted dingoes and furthermore respon-
dents were generally not supportive of lethal dingo manage-
ment. At the 2019 Royal Zoological Society of NSW
symposium titled ‘Dingo Dilemma’ there was strong opposition
to the term wild dog, with many participants asserting that the
term wild dog disguises lethal management practices on dingoes
from the public and hinders debate about dingo management in
Australia (Dickman 2019). We add that the term wild dog does
not accurately represent the ancestry of wild canids in Australia,
particularly as the dominant genetic identity is dingo and feral
domestic dogs are virtually absent from the landscape (Fig. 2).
Although there are dingoes carrying domestic dog ancestry,
particularly in southeastern Australia, there are few F1 or F2
hybrids. The term hybrid generally refers to only F1 crosses, i.e.
the offspring of a dingo and domestic dog but F2 animals which
are the offspring of two F1 hybrids may also be referred to as
hybrids (Hansson et al. 2012). We suggest that dingoes that carry
domestic dog ancestry but are not F1/F2 hybrids should be
referred to as dingo backcrosses or admixed dingoes.
The finding that feral dogs have not established populations
has implications for the management of wild canids in Australia.
Dingoes and stray or roaming domestic dogs can cause serious
impacts for livestock graziers (Fleming et al. 2001). Management
of feral, stray or roaming domestic dogs should focus on
responsible pet ownership including spaying and neutering of
pet animals, keeping pet and working dogs under control and
confined during the night. As feral dogs do not represent a
significant portion of the wild canid population, it should be
clear in legislation and policy that lethal control programs are
targeting dingoes (including admixed dingoes) rather than feral
dogs. Although hybridisation is a concern in southeastern Aus-
tralia (Stephens et al. 2015;Cairns et al. 2019), responsible pet
ownership and continued exclusion of domestic dogs from
National Parks and conservation areas can reduce the occurrence
of future dingo dog hybridisation events. The low number of
F1 or F2 hybrids detected indicates that dingo dog hybridisa-
tion events are uncommon. Despite historical domestic dog
introgression, the dingo population maintains a dingo dominant
identity, even in southeastern Australia (Fig. 1). It is possible that
widespread lethal control programs have increased the likelihood
of dingo dog hybridisation events and facilitating the spread of
introgressed dog genes into the wider dingo population. Lethal
control has been identified as a factor increasing the likelihood of
interspecific hybridisation in other wild canids including coyotes
and red wolves by fracturing social structures and altering
demographic patterns (Bohling and Waits 2015). Management
programs that maintain stable dingo social structures present a
better balance to managing the risks to stock predation and dingo
conservation (Allen 2014,2015;Wallach et al. 2017). Addition-
ally, lethal control programs should not occur during the dingo
breeding season (winter) as this may facilitate dingo dog
hybridisation events, by fracturing pack structures and reducing
the availability of dingo mates. Baiting has also been linked to an
increase in the body-size of dingoes, possibly increasing their
impact on livestock (Letnic and Crowther 2020).
The lack of public engagement and debate on dingo conser-
vation on private and public lands in Australia has allowed
agricultural industry priorities to dominate government policy
and decision making on dingo management. Social science
studies show the general public are largely unawareof the current
threats wild dog control programs have on the remaining dingo
populations in Australia (van Eeden et al. 2020). The lack of
engagement by the public on dingo conservation can in part be
attributed to the renaming of the Australian dingo as a wild dog in
government literature and allowing the general misunderstanding
that all wild dogs are feral dogs to persist. We propose that a
terminology shift is required to reflect the identity of wild canids
in Australia: the term dingo needs to be reinstatedbecause genetic
testing demonstrates that a majority of animals are of high dingo
ancestry and feral dogs are virtually absent. The term wild dog
does not reflect the ancestry of wild canids in Australia and is
poorly understood by the public, it should be retired from use.
FAustralian Mammalogy K. M. Cairns et al.
Conflicts of interest
KMC is a scientific advisor to the Australia Dingo Foundation,
New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Society and New
Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation.
Declaration of funding
KMC is supported by research funding from the Australian
Dingo Foundation.
The authors thank Barry Traill, Angus Emmott and David Pollock for the
impetus to write this paper following discussions at the RZS Dingo Dilemma
Symposium in 2019. We acknowledge the extensive work done by the late
Associate Professor Alan Wilton on this topic. The authors would also like to
thank two anonymous reviewers and the editor for their careful reading of
our manuscript and insightful comments that have improved this manuscript.
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The wild dog myth Australian Mammalogy I
... The umbrella term "wild dog" is widely used in Australia and is defined as "all wild-living dingoes, dingo-dog hybrids and feral dogs" (AWI, 2020;Cairns et al., 2021;Fleming et al., 2001;Purcell et al., 2012). Here, we use "dingoes" to refer to the wild-living descendants of canids living in Australia prior to European contact (see notes on nomenclature below), and "dogs" to refer to modern breeds of Canis familiaris that have undergone intense and recent anthropogenic selective breeding (i.e., within the last 2000 years). ...
... There are conflicting opinions on the definition of dingoes, their ecological importance, and how they should be managed and conserved (Table 1; Dickman et al., 2021). Disagreement over dingo taxonomy and nomenclature (names proposed and in use include: Canis familiaris, C. familiaris dingo, C. lupus familiaris, C. lupus dingo, and C. dingo) reflects debate over differences and similarities between dingoes and dogs (Cairns, 2021;Crowther et al., 2014;Jackson et al., 2017;Jackson et al., 2019;Jackson et al., 2021;Shipman, 2021;Smith et al., 2019)-as defined above-and whether dingo-dog hybridization represents a conservation issue Cairns et al., 2019;Cairns et al., 2021;Claridge et al., 2014;Crowther et al., 2021;Jones, 2009;Stephens et al., 2015;van Eeden, Dickman, et al., 2018). Further debate focuses on the dingo's status as a native species Hytten, 2011) and its varying cultural values to Australian people (Archer-Lean et al., 2015;Probyn-Rapsey, 2015;Smith & Litchfield, 2009;. ...
... Taxonomy Dispute over whether dingoes and dogs are taxonomically different Crowther et al., 2014;Jackson et al., 2017;Jackson et al., 2019;Smith et al., 2019;Zhang et al., 2020;Jackson et al., 2021;Cairns, 2021;Shipman, 2021;Field et al., 2022;Krofel et al., 2022; Hybridization Dispute over whether hybridization between dingoes and dogs is a conservation issue Claridge and Hunt (2008);Jones, 2009;Claridge et al., 2014;Stephens et al., 2015;Allen et al., 2017;van Eeden, Dickman, et al., 2018;Cairns et al., 2019;Crowther et al., 2021;Cairns et al., 2021 Cultural value ...
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Expert elicitation can be valuable for informing decision-makers on conservation and wildlife management issues. To date, studies eliciting expert opinions have primarily focused on identifying and building consensus on key issues. Nonetheless , there are drawbacks of a strict focus on consensus, and it is important to understand and emphasize dissent, too. This study adopts a dissensus-based Del-phi to understand conflict among dingo experts. Twenty-eight experts participated in three rounds of investigation. We highlight disagreement on most of the issues explored. In particular, we find that disagreement is underpinned by what we call "conflict over values" and "conflict over evidence." We also note the broader role played by distrust in influencing such conflicts. Understanding and recognizing the different elements shaping disagreement is critical for informing and improving decision-making and can also enable critique of dominant paradigms in current practices. We encourage greater reflexivity and open deliberation on these aspects and hope our study will inform similar investigations in other contexts.
... Dingoes are abundant in subtropical North-eastern New South Wales (NE NSW), a region with several threatened macropodoid species (hereafter macropods), including the long-nosed potoroo (Potorous tridactylus), red-legged pademelon (Thylogale stigmatica), and black-striped wallaby (Notamacropus dorsalis) [76,77]. An important aspect of understanding dingoes' diets is considering whether predation by dingoes may threaten already threatened species [43,47]. ...
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Carnivores fulfil important ecological roles in natural systems yet can also jeopardise the persistence of threatened species. Understanding their diet is, therefore, essential for managing populations of carnivores, as well as those of their prey. This study was designed to better understand the diet of an Australian apex predator, the dingo, and determine whether it poses a threat to at-risk small macropods in two floristically different yet geographically close reserves in subtropical Australia. Based on an analysis of 512 scats, dingo diets comprised 34 different prey taxa, of which 50% were common between reserves. Our findings add support to the paradigm that dingoes are opportunistic and generalist predators that prey primarily on abundant mammalian fauna. Their diets in the Border Ranges were dominated by possum species (frequency of occurrence (FOC) = 92.5%), while their diets in Richmond Range were characterised by a high prevalence of pademelon species (FOC = 46.9%). Medium-sized mammals were the most important dietary items in both reserves and across all seasons. The dietary frequency of medium-sized mammals was generally related to their availability (indexed by camera trapping); however, the avoidance of some species with high availability indicates that prey accessibility may also be important in dictating their dietary choices. Other prey categories were supplementary to diets and varied in importance according to seasonal changes in their availability. The diets included two threatened macropods, the red-legged pademelon and black-striped wallaby. Our availability estimates, together with earlier dietary studies spanning 30 years, suggest that the red-legged pademelon is resilient to the observed predation. The black-striped wallaby occurred in only two dingo scats collected from Richmond Range and was not detected by cameras so the threat to this species could not be determined. Two locally abundant but highly threatened species (the koala and long-nosed potoroo) were not detected in the dingoes’ diets, suggesting dingoes do not at present pose a threat to these populations. Our study highlights the importance of site-based assessments, population monitoring and including data on prey availability in dietary investigations.
... On the basis of observations from previous filming trips, Dingo 1 was assumed to be the mother of Dingoes 3, 4, and 5. Individuals observed were likely to be pure dingo or dingo with some dog ancestry (>75% dingo), not feral dogs. This assumption is based on Cairns et al. (2022), who found that in the Australian Capital Territory, just over 80% of dingoes sampled were either pure dingo or dingo with some dog ancestry (>75%). ...
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Context. The behaviours used by mammalian predators to track, kill, and consume prey are some of the most dynamic interspecific interactions in nature. However, they are often challenging to follow through the landscape and observe directly without disturbing the animals being watched. Aims. We describe the behaviours used by wild dingoes while hunting macropods in Namadgi National Park, Australian Capital Territory, Australia. Methods. Footage was initially captured by wildlife cinematographers on behalf of documentary programs and was made available for viewing after production. Hunting events were filmed from an altitude of >50 m by using a 'long lens' fitted to either a drone or helicopter. Results. We recorded a suite of hunting behaviours that would have been extremely challenging to observe from the ground via traditional methods. This includes some of the first video records published in the scientific literature of the behaviours used by dingoes to hunt and kill macropod prey, as well as some rare observations of mother and pup hunting dynamics. We did not observe any signs of disturbance as a result of filming for either predator or prey. Conclusions. The varied repertoire of predatory behaviours displayed by dingoes is similar to that documented in wolves and asserts them as a behaviourally complex top predator in the Australian landscape. In addition, we highlight the use of drones as a valuable approach for directly observing wild behaviours. They offer a minimally invasive and relatively inexpensive and accessible alternative to helicopters. This project is also a case study exemplifying the value of collaborations between filmmakers and researchers that enable the sharing of archival documentary footage for the study of wild animal behaviour. Implications. Future studies of wild animal behaviour should consider employing drones (at a safe distance and in accordance with published best practices and guidelines) as an additional tool to collect types of data that would be challenging using other methods.
... Dingoes can hybridize with modern dog breeds, and the genetic purity of dingoes varies across the continent [103,104]. For the purposes of our study, we have included dietary data for all free-roaming populations of dingoes, modern domestic dogs and their hybrids, hereafter collectively termed R. Soc. ...
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Introduction of the domestic cat and red fox has devastated Australian native fauna. We synthesized Australian diet analyses to identify traits of prey species in cat, fox and dingo diets, which prey were more frequent or distinctive to the diet of each predator, and quantified dietary overlap. Nearly half (45%) of all Australian terrestrial mammal, bird and reptile species occurred in the diets of one or more predators. Cat and dingo diets overlapped least (0.64 ± 0.27, n = 24 location/time points) and cat diet changed little over 55 years of study. Cats were more likely to have eaten birds, reptiles and small mammals than foxes or dingoes. Dingo diet remained constant over 53 years and constituted the largest mammal, bird and reptile prey species, including more macropods/potoroids, wombats, monotremes and bandicoots/bilbies than cats or foxes. Fox diet had greater overlap with both cats (0.79 ± 0.20, n = 37) and dingoes (0.73 ± 0.21, n = 42), fewer distinctive items (plant material, possums/gliders) and significant spatial and temporal heterogeneity over 69 years, suggesting the opportunity for prey switching (especially of mammal prey) to mitigate competition. Our study reinforced concerns about mesopredator impacts upon scarce/threatened species and the need to control foxes and cats for fauna conservation. However, extensive dietary overlap and opportunism, as well as low incidence of mesopredators in dingo diets, precluded resolution of the debate about possible dingo suppression of foxes and cats.
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Admixture between species is a cause for concern in wildlife management. Canids are particularly vulnerable to interspecific hybridisation, and genetic admixture has shaped their evolutionary history. Microsatellite DNA testing, relying on a small number of genetic markers and geographically restricted reference populations, has identified extensive domestic dog admixture in Australian dingoes and driven conservation management policy. But there exists a concern that geographic variation in dingo genotypes could confound ancestry analyses that use a small number of genetic markers. Here, we apply genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping to a set of 402 wild and captive dingoes collected from across Australia and then carry out comparisons to domestic dogs. We then perform ancestry modelling and biogeographic analyses to characterise population structure in dingoes and investigate the extent of admixture between dingoes and dogs in different regions of the continent. We show that there are at least five distinct dingo populations across Australia. We observed limited evidence of dog admixture in wild dingoes. Our work challenges previous reports regarding the occurrence and extent of dog admixture in dingoes, as our ancestry analyses show that previous assessments severely overestimate the degree of domestic dog admixture in dingo populations, particularly in south-eastern Australia. These findings strongly support the use of genome-wide SNP genotyping as a refined method for wildlife managers and policymakers to assess and inform dingo management policy and legislation moving forwards.
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Adoption by livestock producers of preventive non-lethal innovations forms a critical pathway towards human and large carnivore coexistence. However, it is impeded by factors such as socio-cultural contexts, governing institutions, and 'perverse' economic incentives that result in a 'lock-in' of lethal control of carnivores in grazing systems. In Australian rangelands, the dingo is the dominant predator in conflict with 'graziers' and is subjected to lethal control measures despite evidence indicating that its presence in agricultural landscapes can provide multiple benefits. Here we explore the barriers to the uptake of preventive innovations in livestock grazing through 21 in-depth interviews conducted with Australian graziers, researchers, and conservation and government representatives. Drawing on Donella Meadow's leverage points for system change framework, we focus, primarily, on barriers in the 'political sphere' because they appear to form the greatest impediment to the adoption of non-lethal tools and practices. These barriers are then discussed in relation to characteristics of lock-in traps (self-reinforcement, persistence, path dependencies, and undesirability) to assess how they constrain the promotion of human-dingo coexistence.
Maximising conservation outcomes for threatened species in multi-use landscapes is likely to require a multi-stakeholder, coordinated approach that is tenure blind. Here, we conduct a review of a research program targeting the endangered northern quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus) in the Pilbara region of Western Australia; an area with a high concentration of mining and pastoral activities. To inform ongoing investment to support northern quoll conservation, we identify future directions that either add value to research already undertaken or are based on the original priorities that have not been addressed. The original program was developed using a collaborative process involving workshops attended by multiple stakeholders to identify research priorities. To date, the program has significantly improved our knowledge of Pilbara northern quolls, particularly in relation to effective survey and monitoring techniques, the influence of habitat quantity, configuration, and composition on occupancy, movement ecology, population dynamics and structure, and the threat posed by introduced predators. The efficacy of artificial refuges that were created to replicate natural denning habitat has also been investigated. Suggested future research directions focus on refining the northern quoll regional monitoring program, understanding how interacting threats such as introduced predators, fire, and herbivore grazing influence northern quoll populations in the Pilbara, and how best to mitigate other threats such as mining associated activities and the impending cane toad invasion.
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Background One difficulty in testing the hypothesis that the Australasian dingo is a functional intermediate between wild wolves and domesticated breed dogs is that there is no reference specimen. Here we link a high-quality de novo long-read chromosomal assembly with epigenetic footprints and morphology to describe the Alpine dingo female named Cooinda. It was critical to establish an Alpine dingo reference because this ecotype occurs throughout coastal eastern Australia where the first drawings and descriptions were completed. Findings We generated a high-quality chromosome-level reference genome assembly (Canfam_ADS) using a combination of Pacific Bioscience, Oxford Nanopore, 10X Genomics, Bionano, and Hi-C technologies. Compared to the previously published Desert dingo assembly, there are large structural rearrangements on chromosomes 11, 16, 25, and 26. Phylogenetic analyses of chromosomal data from Cooinda the Alpine dingo and 9 previously published de novo canine assemblies show dingoes are monophyletic and basal to domestic dogs. Network analyses show that the mitochondrial DNA genome clusters within the southeastern lineage, as expected for an Alpine dingo. Comparison of regulatory regions identified 2 differentially methylated regions within glucagon receptor GCGR and histone deacetylase HDAC4 genes that are unmethylated in the Alpine dingo genome but hypermethylated in the Desert dingo. Morphologic data, comprising geometric morphometric assessment of cranial morphology, place dingo Cooinda within population-level variation for Alpine dingoes. Magnetic resonance imaging of brain tissue shows she had a larger cranial capacity than a similar-sized domestic dog. Conclusions These combined data support the hypothesis that the dingo Cooinda fits the spectrum of genetic and morphologic characteristics typical of the Alpine ecotype. We propose that she be considered the archetype specimen for future research investigating the evolutionary history, morphology, physiology, and ecology of dingoes. The female has been taxidermically prepared and is now at the Australian Museum, Sydney.
Predator restoration is ecologically important but politically controversial. Red wolf (Canis rufus) reintroduction is challenged by public criticism and scientific uncertainty. Red wolf taxonomy is a core issue, as researchers debate wolves’ identity and political stakeholders work to interpret technical issues and promote their favored political storylines. Red wolf reintroduction critics form a politically important discursive community. We analyzed these critics’ discourse, identifying storylines characterizing science, scientists, and red wolf identity. Our corpus was an influential internet thread, active since 2013. We found that red wolf restoration opponents accepted the authority of science, and felt that science supported their perspective. They believed peer reviewed science to be more legitimate than applied or management science, that science supported their belief that red wolves were not a real species, and that red wolves’ status as a species was an anti-scientific conspiracy. Red wolf restoration advocates on the thread countered these arguments while similarly believing in scientific authority. Restoration opponents constantly sought to promote their storylines in policy-making venues, and found the red wolf restoration program to be corrupt and the reintroduced canids themselves to be impure. These storylines parallel similar findings elsewhere, highlighting the political challenges faced by predator restoration science and policy, the issues of purity complicating many levels of the discourse, and the role of online venues as effective spaces to create and promote discursive communities and their storylines
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Controversy about the nomenclature and taxonomy of dingoes has sparked interest in their complex identity. At the root of taxonomy debates are differences in the species concepts employed, differing opinions about the domestication status of dingoes (and their ancestors) and a simplistic handling of the complex evolutionary relationship between wolves, dingoes and domestic dogs. I explore the relationship of dingoes to village dogs, modern breed dogs and wolves using genome-wide SNP data and discuss the implications of these findings to the ongoing debate about dingo identity and nomenclature. Importantly, despite controversy about what to call dingoes and whether they are a full species, these animals represent an important, distinct and unique evolutionary unit worthy of high conservation priority, as a native species. There is growing concern about the spread of domestic dog genes into dingo populations, particularly in southeastern Australia, and the impact this has on conservation goals. However, the discovery of biogeographic subdivision within dingoes raises questions about the accuracy of the current methods used for estimating dog vs dingo ancestry. I caution scientists and wildlife managers to carefully consider the limitations of current ancestry estimate methods when assessing DNA test results. Future work using genome-wide DNA technology to improve dingo ancestry estimates will be fundamental to ongoing debate about what dingoes are, how to identify dingoes and how to conserve them.
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Dog domestication was multifaceted Dogs were the first domesticated animal, likely originating from human-associated wolves, but their origin remains unclear. Bergstrom et al. sequenced 27 ancient dog genomes from multiple locations near to and corresponding in time to comparable human ancient DNA sites (see the Perspective by Pavlidis and Somel). By analyzing these genomes, along with other ancient and modern dog genomes, the authors found that dogs likely arose once from a now-extinct wolf population. They also found that at least five different dog populations ∼10,000 years before the present show replacement in Europe at later dates. Furthermore, some dog population genetics are similar to those of humans, whereas others differ, inferring a complex ancestral history for humanity's best friend. Science , this issue p. 557 ; see also p. 522
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Significance New Guinea singing dogs (NGSD) are distinctive among the Canidae because of their unique and characteristic vocalization, isolated habitat, and status as a rare representative of wild dogs. Their scarcity, combined with the knowledge that none have been captured or exported since the late 1970s, supports the hypothesis that NGSD are extinct in the wild. We have analyzed the nuclear genome of the first dogs captured from the highlands of Papua in approximately 50 y. We provide DNA-based evidence for an ancestral relationship between highland wild dogs (HWD) and captive NGSD suggesting that the founding population of the NGSD is not, in fact, extinct and that HWD should be resourced for conservation efforts to rebuild this unique canid population.
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Dingo classification and management is complicated by hybridisation with domestic dogs. Northern Australia is a relatively high-risk zone for a rabies incursion, and in the event of an incursion, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples who reside in this region would prioritise the protection of dingoes. Therefore, the classification of dingoes in this context is important. Twelve pictures of canids with features associated with both dingoes and domestic dogs from camera traps in the Northern Peninsula Area (NPA), northern Queensland, were shown to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rangers (n = 3), biosecurity officers (n = 2), environmental health workers (n = 2), and residents (n = 39) in the NPA. Nearly all pictures (10/12) were classified as dingo or domestic dog (none as hybrid) and two were inconclusive (no overall agreement). Dingoes were consistently identified as medium to large-framed dogs, with a long nose, pointed ears, narrow abdomen, a bushy or feathered tail, and smooth coats of a single base colour. Some hybrid features were acceptable, including sable coats, lack of white tail tip or feet, and curled tail. These findings are a preliminary guide for identifying canids in the NPA region for whom management might be controversial. Building on this approach via further consultation with residents is needed to inform rabies response policy. Our approach using locally acquired camera trap pictures could also be extended to other regions in which dingoes have value but their management is controversial.
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Public opposition has shaped management of wild animals in Australia, but public interest in dingo control has been minimal. We hypothesised that this is due to lack of awareness of dingo management practices, in part because using the term “wild dogs” to describe management renders “dingoes” invisible, framing the issue as one of control of introduced pests rather than control of an iconic Australian animal. We distributed an online questionnaire survey to the Australian public ( N = 811) to measure how the public perceived dingoes and their management, how these views compared with other animals managed as pests in Australia, and whether the term “wild dogs” has shaped views and knowledge of dingo management. Most respondents (84.6%) considered dingoes to be native to Australia and there was low approval of lethal control methods, except when justification was provided (e.g., to protect livestock or endangered native species). Only 19.1% were aware that “wild dog” management included dingoes, and attitudes towards “wild dogs” were more negative than those towards dingoes. If public awareness about dingo management increases, pressure from the public may result and shape future management actions, including restricting the use of lethal control practices like poison baiting on public lands. As such, public attitudes should be incorporated into decision-making, and appropriate communication strategies need to be employed to prevent backlash.
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The impact of hybridisation between dingoes and domestic dogs, and the subsequent introgression of domestic dog genes into dingo populations, remains a topic of significant impact. It has been claimed, but with little evidence or logical argumentation, that dingoes with significant dog introgression have different effects on agriculture and ecosystems than dingoes with no dog introgression. Introgression is a natural process in evolution, occurring in many species, although this is sometimes human assisted. Canid species in particular show high levels of introgression, due to their genetic and phylogenetic similarities, and human persecution creates scenarios encouraging hybridisation. Dingoes are no exception and demonstrate high levels of introgression of domestic dog genes, particularly in the temperate areas of south-eastern Australia. The available evidence shows that this introgression has minimal effects on the functional morphology of the dingo skull. There is also some preliminary evidence that introgression has not had a major impact on dingo reproductive biology. Studies on the impacts of dingoes on arid, tropical and temperate ecosystems, where levels of introgression vary greatly, all show consistent positive impacts of dingoes, regardless of the amount of domestic dog genes within the dingo population, on these ecosystems. Hence, hybridisation and resultant introgression from domestic dog genes appear to have little effect on aspects of the functional morphology or ecological role of the dingo. Accordingly, introgression does not diminish the conservation status of the dingo.
This book provides an up-to-date description of the behavioural biology of dogs. It is written for students of animal behaviour or veterinary medicine at advanced levels and dog owners. This book is divided into 4 parts and 14 chapters. The first part (chapters 1-3) focuses on the evolution and development of the dog. The second part (chapters 4-8) deals with the basic aspects of animal behaviour with particular emphasis on dogs. The third part (chapters 9-12) places the modern dog in its present ecological framework in the niche of human coexistence. A broad overview of the behavioural aspects of living close to humans is given. The fourth part (chapters 13 and 14) focuses on behavioural problems, their prevention and cure.
Ancestral dingoes arrived in Australia at some time, or times, during the Holocene, heralding a period of long and uneasy coexistence with the human inhabitants of the continent. For the first Australians, dingoes became a valued and integral part of the culture but also exacted diverse social and economic costs. For early Europeans and later arrivals, dingoes were alternately revered for their strength and intelligence or feared and reviled for their attacks on livestock. These disparate views have scarcely changed in 232 years; if anything, the schism in perspectives about the dingo has widened as more has been discovered about this divisive and still enigmatic animal. Here, we show that current arguments about the dingo have deep origins by tracing the history of debate about the taxon’s name, when dingoes arrived in Australia, whether they are native or introduced, the early effects of dingoes on native fauna, and their current impacts as a ‘biodiversity regulator’ and destroyer of livestock. We suggest that some debates concerning the dingo will be resolved when more evidence is gained or new discoveries are made, whereas other debates will progress only when proponents and protagonists are able to agree on a research agenda and on thresholds for interpretation of the results that the agenda produces. Such new evidence, and new collaborative thinking, should provide a more robust underpinning for when, where and how dingoes are conserved and managed in future.
Pollution and pesticide use have been linked to evolution of chemical resistance and phenotypic shifts in invertebrates, but less so in vertebrates. Here we provide evidence that poisoning directed towards a mammalian carnivore, the dingo (Canis dingo), is linked to an increase in dingo body mass. We compared the skull length of dingoes, a proxy for size, from three regions where dingo populations were controlled by distributing poisoned meat baits and an unbaited region, before and after the introduction of the toxin sodium fluoroacetate (Compound 1080). Following 1080 introduction, dingo skull length increased in baited regions but not in the unbaited region. We estimate that after 1080 introduction, the skull length of female and male dingoes in baited regions increased by 4.49 and 3.6 mm, respectively. This equates to a 1.02- and 0.86-kg increase in mean body masses of female and male dingoes, respectively. We hypothesize that dingo body size has increased in baited regions due to 1080 selecting for animals with larger body size or because a reduction in dingo abundance in baited areas may have removed constraints on growth imposed by intraspecific competition and prey availability. Our study provides evidence that pesticide use can prompt phenotypic change in comparatively large and long-lived large vertebrates.