Dingoes share pure genes with 3000-year-old ancestors

Dingoes may look like man’s best friend but genetics prove otherwise.

New research shows dingoes have kept their rare genetic ancestry by not breeding with domestic dogs in the 3000 years since arriving in Australia.

The Queensland University of Technology study compared 42 ancient dingo bones to modern DNA to identify when the animals arrived and their ancestry.

The study found dingoes likely arrived in Australia on seafarer’s boats about 3000 years ago after Tasmania and the land bridge to Papua New Guinea disconnected.

Even after domestic dogs arrived with European colonisation in the 1700s, dingoes mostly kept their paws to themselves and have maintained unique genetics ever since.

The research found that dingoes on Queensland holiday hotspot K’gari (formerly Fraser Island) have not interbred with dogs at all.

Paleogeneticist Sally Wasef said the discovery discredited excuses to cull dingo populations because interbreeding had made the dogs aggressive.

“We’re losing that iconic animal because they’re less and less common,” the co-author of the study told AAP.

Instead the population should be preserved, particularly on places like K’gari where about 200 dingoes roam free.

There has been a spate of attacks on the island in recent months, the most recent on a two-year-old boy who was nipped on the leg by a dingo.

One dingo believed to be responsible for multiple biting incidents was euthanised earlier this year because of escalating dangerous behaviour.

However, Dr Wasef called for this to come to an end given the rare and unique DNA of the animals.

She said tourists should be more responsible for their behaviour in places like K’gari instead of the dogs being put down.

Dr Wasef suggested human access to places like K’gari should be reconsidered given the unique gene pool of the dingoes but acknowledged the tourism benefits of the island.

The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS.)


Savannah Meacham
(Australian Associated Press)


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