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Researchers find the dingo is not a dog but a unique Australian species of its own

AFP, March 10, 2019 6:45PM AFP

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Dingoes are helpful in controlling pests like feral cats and foxes. Photo Lachie Millard media_cameraDingoes are helpful in controlling pests like feral cats and foxes. Photo Lachie Millard

animals

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Researchers in Australia have found the dingo is not a dog but a native* species* of its own.

Twenty researchers from several Australian universities found the dingo has many characteristics* that make it different from domestic and feral* dogs, and other wild canids* — a family that includes wolves and foxes.

Researchers have claimed the dingo is a native Australian species unlike all other dogs. Picture: Sarah Matray media_cameraResearchers have claimed the dingo is a native Australian species unlike all other dogs. Picture: Sarah Matray

In a paper published in the respected scientific journal Zootaxa last week, they argue that because of its geographic isolation* and the lack of taming* of dingoes in Australia for more than 1000 years, “little evidence exists” to show the wild animal is a dog.

“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,” Bradley Smith, from Central Queensland University, said.

How to classify* the dingo has caused great debate among the scientific community.

The Australian Museum, the oldest of its kind in the country, considers the dingo a “wild dog” that likely came to Australia with humans from Asia about 4000 years ago.

New-born dingo pups. Source: Australian Reptile Park media_cameraNew-born dingo pups. Source: Australian Reptile Park

Its status* has differing outcomes for its conservation in Australia, where it is considered by many to be a threat to domestic animals and livestock, but some also argue it is helpful in controlling pests like feral cats and foxes.

Plans to control dingoes, often linked to wild dog management programs, change from state to state, but they can be trapped and killed in some areas.

Researchers arguing the animal is not a dog, say government policies should keep the species as native fauna and offer it greater protection.

“In fact, dingoes play a vital ecological* role in Australia by outcompeting and displacing noxious* introduced predators like feral cats and foxes,” said the paper’s co-author, Corey Bradshaw of Flinders University.

“When dingoes are left alone, there are fewer feral predators eating native marsupials*, birds and lizards.

“The dingo is, without doubt, a native Australian species,” concludes* Prof Bradshaw.


GLOSSARY

  • native: homegrown or linked to place of birth
  • species: same type of animal or plant
  • characteristics: feature or characteristic that identifies a person, place or thing
  • feral: wild animal
  • canids: mammal in the dog family
  • isolation: separation
  • taming: training to no longer be wild
  • domestication: training to no longer be wild
  • classify: arrange a group of people or things in categories
  • status: position or standing or ranking
  • ecological: relation of living organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings.
  • noxious: poisonous or harmful
  • marsupials: mammals with pouches
  • concludes: arrive at an answer

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QUICK QUIZ

  • Explain what a native species is.
  • Which journal was the research published in?
  • Name two characteristics that make the dingo unique?
  • Where does the Australian Museum think dingoes came from?
  • What predators does the dingo outcompete and help control?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Understanding the argument
From the article, identify:

  • one reason to support the control of dingo populations
  • one reason against controlling dingo populations

In your own words, summarise the main reasons that the scientists who wrote the paper have concluded that dingoes are not dogs.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science

2. Extension
Perform your own research to find out more about how dingoes first arrived in Australia.
Can you find out how these animals that now live in the wild in Australia came to be here?

  • rabbits
  • camels

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, History, Geography

VCOP ACTIVITY
After reading the article, with a partner, highlight as many pieces of punctuation as you can find in green. Discuss how these are being used, where and how often. What level of the punctuation pyramid is the journalist using in this article?

HAVE YOUR SAY: Do you agree that the dingo is not a dog? Why or why not?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. Comments will not show until approved by editors.

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