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1 October 2003
Dingoes descended from domestic dogs

New genetic research has shown that Australia’s wild dingoes are descended from domestic dogs introduced from South East Asia some 5,000 years ago. Additionally, the new analysis reveals only small mitochondrial DNA differences in a sample of 200 dingoes from all over Australia, suggesting that that all living dingoes are descended from very few ancestors – possibly just one breeding pair.
     Until now the ancestry of the dingo has been much debated: time of arrival, region of origin, wild or domestic. “There hasn’t been a lot of evidence, so everything has been speculation,” says Alan Wilton, of the University of New South Wales. Wilton, with colleagues including Peter Savolainen at Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology, studied a highly variable portion of mtDNA from dingoes, dogs from all continents, and wolves. They also compared their results with mtDNA sequences of dogs and wolves published by Savolainen in ‘Science’ in 2002. “And we found that dingoes fall right into the main domestic dog clade,” says Wilton.
     The earliest archaeological evidence for dingoes dates back 3,500 years. Wilton says that the new date of 5,000 years derived from his analysis is consistent with this, and with the expansion of Austronesian culture into the islands of SE Asia, 6,000 years ago. Dingo ancestors may have been brought by Malaccan trading boats, most likely as a food source, and quickly took to the wild. ”It’s not hard to imagine that as soon as they got here, some would run off and spread rapidly throughout the country.”

Source: New Scientist (29 September 2003)

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