Dingoes are part domestic dog, part wolf (sort of)


Dingoes are Australia’s largest land carnivore, but their evolutionary history has been shrouded in mystery and debate for decades. Now a new study finds that they are genetically somewhere between a wolf and a modern domestic dog.

Researchers sequenced the genome of a ‘pure’ dingo pup discovered alive on a roadside in the central Australian desert, according to a Explanation published by La Trobe University in Melbourne. Compared to the DNS of domestic dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) and a wolf (wolf) DNA of the dingo pup identified dingoes as “intermediaries” between wolves and domestic dog breeds, researchers recently reported

“It gives us a much clearer view of how dingoes evolved, which is fascinating from a scientific point of view, but also opens up all sorts of new ways to monitor their health and ensure their long-term survival,” said study co-author Bill Ballard , a professor of evolutionary genomics at La Trobe University, said in the statement.

Scientists suspect that humans brought the ancestors of modern dingoes to Australia between 5,000 and 8,500 years ago, but it’s not clear where these ancient dogs were in the domestication process when they first arrived. Modern dog breeds were not introduced to Australia until 1788, so dingoes were also separated from other dogs for thousands of years.

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Dingoes are apex predators and have been at the top of the food chain in Australia since Tasmanian tigers (Thylacine cynocephalus) disappeared from mainland Australia at least 2,000 years ago (Tasmanian tigers survived on the island of Tasmania until 1936, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature). Dingoes may have contributed to the extinction of the Tasmanian tigers by competing with them for food, the researchers said Australian Museum.

After their arrival in Australia, the dingo’s ancestors adapted to eat marsupials, including kangaroos, as well as reptiles. One difference between dingoes and most domesticated dog breeds is that, like wolves, dingoes have only one copy of the amylase-producing gene AMY2B, which breaks down starch. This reduces the ability of dingoes to digest starch and suggests that dingoes have one protein-rich diet, as wolves do. In comparison, most domestic dog breeds have multiple copies of AMY2B, allowing them to handle a high-starch diet more similar to human diets.

Today, dingoes interbreed with wild dogs — domestic dogs that live in the wild — further complicating their status. A 2015 study published in the journal Molecular Ecology found widespread hybridization between dingoes and domestic dogs, potentially threatening dingo survival and disrupting their role in the Australian ecosystem.

The study was published in the journal on April 22 scientific advances.

Originally published on Live Science.


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