Just how many dingo subgroups are there?

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dingo subgroup
A Fraser-type dingo. Photo: Kongsak Sumano/shutterstock

A new University of Sydney study has revealed differences in skull shapes among dingoes from different Australian regions, lending support for the idea of two dingo subgroups, rather than three.

Department of Archaeology PhD candidate Loukas Koungoulos found that dingoes from northwestern Australia, defined as encompassing mostly Western Australia, South Australia, the Northern Territory and inland Queensland, all have very similarly shaped skulls—long, thin, and relatively flat.

This contrasts with dingoes from the southeastern region—defined as southern coastal Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria—which tend to have broader skulls with more prominent faces. Compared to their relatives from northwestern parts of Australia, their skulls are more similar to those of domestic dogs and wild New Guinea singing dogs.

“An older theory suggests three dingo variants—tropical, desert and alpine,” Koungoulos said.

“My research, however, which shows little difference between tropical and desert dingoes, but great difference between them and those from alpine upland areas, supports recent genetic work that suggests there are just two dingo subgroups.”

Published in Zoomorphology, the research forms a starting point from which Koungoulos plans to analyse whether the skull differences are indeed caused by ancestral divergence, not crossbreeding with domesticated dogs. This will involve studying collections of genetically verified pure dingo skulls to eliminate the possible influence of dogs.

This article was sourced from The University of Sydney news website.

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