Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Genetic study uncovers evolutionary history of dingoes


October 31, 2017 by Deborah Smith

A major study of dingo DNA has revealed dingoes most likely migrated to Australia in two separate waves via a former land bridge with Papua New Guinea.

The find has significant implications for conservation, with researchers recommending the two genetically distinct populations of dingoes – in the south-east and north-west of the country – be treated as different groups for management and conservation purposes.

"Care should be taken not to move dingoes between the different wild populations," says study first author and UNSW Sydney scientist Dr Kylie Cairns. "And captive breeding programs should ensure the two dingo populations are maintained separately, with genetic testing used to identify ancestry."

Dr Cairns says there is also an urgent need to prevent further inter-breeding between domestic dogs and the south-eastern population of dingoes, which is threatened by genetic dilution, habitat loss and lethal control measures such as baiting and the recently reintroduced wild dog bounty in Victoria.

"Effective containment or neutering of male dogs in rural areas may help achieve this reduction in inter-breeding," says Dr Cairns, of the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences.
"Additionally, baiting and culling practices break apart dingo packs, leading to increased incidences of hybridisation. Alternative livestock protection measures need to be explored, such as livestock guardians, predator deterrents and improved dingo-proof fencing," she says.

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