Since the arrival of British settlers more than 230 years ago, most Australians have assumed dingoes are a breed of wild dog.
Now 20 leading researchers have confirmed in a new study—published in Zootaxa—that the dingo is actually a unique, Australian species in its own right.
The latest findings provide further evidence of specific characteristics that differentiate dingoes from domestic dogs, feral dogs, and other wild canids such as wolves.
The finding that a dingo is not a ‘dog’ comes after the Government of Western Australia contemplated declaring the dingo as ‘non-fauna’, which would have given more freedom to landowners to kill them without a licence.
Co-author Professor Corey Bradshaw of Flinders University said the classification of dingoes has serious consequences for the fragile ecosystems they inhabit, and state governments are required to develop and implement management strategies for species considered native fauna.
“In fact, dingoes play a vital ecological role in Australia by outcompeting and displacing noxious introduced predators like feral cats and foxes,” Professor Bradshaw said.
“When dingoes are left alone, there are fewer feral predators eating native marsupials, birds and lizards.
“Dingoes can also increase profits for cattle graziers, because they target and eat kangaroos that otherwise compete with cattle for grass in semi-arid pasture lands.”
Lead author, Dr Bradley Smith from Central Queensland University, said little evidence exists to support the notion that any canid species are interchangeable with dingoes, despite the fact that most canids can successfully interbreed.
“There is no historical evidence of domestication once the dingo arrived in Australia, and the degree of domestication prior to arrival is uncertain and likely to be low, certainly compared to modern domestic dogs,” Dr Smith said.