Dingoes Aren’t Feral Dogs

According to a new study, DINGOES might look like dogs, but are in a genetic category in between wolves and dogs.

A global collaboration involving 26 authors from 10 countries, compared the genome of a desert dingo named Sandy (pictured above) who was rescued in 2014 along with her siblings, to those of five domestic dog breeds, and the Greenland wolf. They found the genome structurally distinct from the boxer, German Shepherd, Basenji, Great Dane and Labrador Retriever.

But Sandy still shared more similarity with the domestic dogs than with the Greenland wolf. Among the breeds, Sandy was closer to the German Shepherd than the rest.

According to Professor Bill Ballard of La Trobe University and the University of Melbourne, dingoes evolved to prey on small marsupials and aren’t easily able to digest high-fat foods, therefore, lambs are more likely being hunted by feral dogs or hybrids. Professor Ballard hopes to test his prediction, and perhaps exonerate dingoes, in future behavior experiments.

Knowing more about dingo evolution can illuminate the history of the ancient people who brought them across the sea from Southeast Asia. Furthermore, its genome can be used as a reference to help identify which genes are responsible for genetic disease in modern dogs, rather than trying to compare between inbred dog breeds.

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