Wednesday 12 February 2020

They were once domestic pets, then natural selection made dingoes wild

FEBRUARY 11, 2020

Believed to have been pets at one stage in their evolution, the origins of the Australian dingo are shrouded in mystery, compelling generations of biologists to snoop for clues about their early history. New evidence has recently been revealed by a genomic study that offers tantalizing details about their adaptation from domesticated to wild animals.

The study's lead author Peter Savolainen, professor at the Department of Gene Technology at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, says that thousands of years ago these outback predators were pet dogs in Asia. According to the genetic analyses, dingoes began their journey of feralization—and their migration to Australia—8,300 years ago when they split off from their ancestors, which today are known as Indonesian village dogs.

"Our analyses of phylogeny, population structure, and demography as well as selection analysis, show that the dingo is a genetically distinct population clearly differentiated from the domestic dog," Savolainen says. "Genes related to behaviour, food digestion and reproduction have evolved in order to adapt dingoes to living in the wild instead of together with humans."

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