Dingoes have long been considered a type of wild dog to the residents of Australia, when in fact this isn’t entirely accurate.
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New research published just this week in the journal Zootaxa instead underscores the idea that the dingo is its own species entirely. The findings are a considerable departure from Australian common knowledge, and the mistaken nomenclature could have severe implications for the dingo as we know it.
As the researchers explain, the government of Western Australia recently conducted a study in which it concluded that the humble dingo was ‘non-fauna,’ and this would have permitted Australian residents to hunt and kill the animals even without a license. Conversely, the latest study proposes the argument that dingoes should be considered native fauna.
“Dingoes play a vital ecological role in Australia by outcompeting and displacing noxious introduced predators like feral cats and foxes,” enlightened study co-author Corey Bradshaw from Flinders University. “When dingoes are left alone, there are fewer feral predators eating native marsupials, birds, and lizards.”
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As it would seem, the dingo is an essential piece of a larger puzzle that makes up the entire Australian ecosystem. Compartmentalizing dingoes into the non-fauna category and empowering citizens to reduce their numbers carelessly could and would wreak havoc on the said ecosystem, the researchers argue.
Previous analyses have drawn attention to the differences in skin and skull specimens between dingoes and other types of canids, including domestic and feral dogs, and even wolves. The latest study brings additional supporting arguments into the picture, including examples of natural selection, among other things. Again, this brings up the importance of declassifying dingoes as a type of non-fauna.
"The dingo has been geographically isolated from all other canids, and genetic mixing driven mainly by human interventions has only been occurring recently," added study lead author Dr. Bradley Smith from Central Queensland University.
"Further evidence in support of dingoes being considered a 'wild type' capable of surviving in the absence of human intervention and under natural selection is demonstrated by the consistent return of dog-dingo hybrids to a dingo-like canid throughout the Australian mainland and on several islands."
Natural selection appears to favor the dingo even when they interbreed with various types of canids, and to the researchers, this is a good enough reason to take a closer look at the situation.
Given all the evidence put forth thus far, it should be interesting to see how the latest study impacts the dingo’s classification in Australia, if at all.