Are dingoes dogs or wolves? Research finds the answer is somewhere in the middle - petsitterbank

Are dingoes dogs or wolves? Research finds the answer is somewhere in the middle

“If dingoes aren’t given the protection they deserve, it will upset the country’s ecological balance – potentially leading to environmental issues like erosion and species extinction.”

One of the key differences between dingoes and dogs is the number of copies of the pancreatic “amylase” gene they have, researchers found. A pure dingo has only one copy of the amylase gene, whereas domestic dogs have multiple copies. This influences the gut microbiome, appetite and, scientists believe, what dingoes eat.

Dingoes are believed to have been in Australia for about 5000 to 8500 years. Credit:Jason South

Based on this new knowledge, Ballard said his team hypothesized that dingoes were far less likely to eat farm animals, including sheep.

“If we’re correct, what farmers currently assume are dingoes killing their stock, are likely to be feral wild dogs,” Ballard said.

Studying dogs reveals much about the prehistoric movement of humans, the development of human cultures and the processes of domestication. Dingoes have a unique lineage within canine history, as they have been geographically isolated from wolves and domestic dogs for thousands of years.


It is thought dingoes arrived in Australia about 5000 to 8500 years ago, and have been the continent’s apex predator since the extinction of the thylacine.

Ballard said sequencing dingo DNA was a way to test Charles Darwin’s theory that there are two steps to the process of domestication: unconscious selection, as a result of non-intentional human influences, and artificial selection, through deliberate human activities such as breeding.

Sequencing Sandy’s DNA will allow scientists to examine the changes in genes associated with the process of domestication, he said.

There are two types of dingoes in Australia. Alpine dingoes live on Great Dividing Range and to the east of it, while desert dingoes live to the west of the range. The genome of the alpine dingo is being mapped.

This five-year genome research project became possible when Sandy won the World’s Most Interesting Genome competition in 2017, which was decided by public vote.


The Pacific Biosciences SMRT Grant provided cutting-edge sequencing of the complete genome of a particularly fascinating plant or animal. The other finalists were a temple pit viper snake, a sea slug, an explosive bombardier beetle, and a pink pigeon.

The five-year study was undertaken by a research consortium of experts in microbiology, computational biology and veterinary science, from institutions across six countries, including Australia, Denmark and Norway.

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