This species, revered in Australian Aboriginal culture but reviled by ranchers, has become the island continent’s No. 1 predator since the Tasmanian tiger disappeared in the last century.
the position of the dingo on the scale of evolution has been a source of division for a long timetold AFP the co-author of the study, Bill Ballard, of La Trobe and Melbourne universities.
Some believe that these slender canids with reddish-brown coats, introduced to Australia 5,000 to 8,500 years ago, are simply an alternative form of the domesticated dog.
The new study, the result of a collaboration of 26 authors from 10 countries, compared the genome of a female desert dingo named Sandy, rescued in 2014 with her siblings, to those of five species of tame dogs and that of the Greenland wolf.
Their discovery? The genome of the dingo is structurally distinct from that of the boxer, the German shepherd, the basenji (or Congo terrier), the great dane or the Labrador.
However, Sandy’s genome still had more similarities with these domestic dogs than with the Greenland wolf. Of the breeds sampled, the dingo was closest to the German Shepherd.
Sandy the desert dingo is in an intermediate position between the wolf and the domestic dogsconcluded Bill Ballard who, to get to the bottom of it, will also sequence, with his team, the genome of the alpine dingo, a species from the Australian Alps, in the east of the country.
The team of researchers hope their research into the evolution of the dingo will shed light on the history of the ancient peoples who brought them with them from Southeast Asia.
At some point they had to cross an arm of water with some nomadic peopleunderlines Bill Ballard.
Are they Aboriginal Australians or people who have come into contact with Aboriginal peoples? We do not know itcontinues the researcher.
Once the alpine dingo’s genome has been sequenced, the research team hopes to learn more about the timeline of events and begin to answer other questions, including whether it was a single or multi-episode migration.
hated by farmers
Like the wolf in North America, the dingo is a source of deep division. On the one hand, its image is romanticized by urban populations and it plays a prominent role in indigenous culture, but on the other, this animal is hated by farmers, who fear its alleged attacks on livestock.
According to Bill Ballard, who has also studied the metabolism of dingoes, however, these canines evolved to hunt small marsupials and are not able to easily digest high-fat foods. Lambs are more likely to be chased and killed by wild dogs or hybrids.
He hopes to be able to test this theory in future behavioral studies and thus exonerate the dingo.