Above: a dingo relaxes on the beach on Fraser Island, Australia.
A study by the University of New South Wales, and published in Australian Mammalogy, collates the results from over 5000 DNA samples of wild canines across the country, making it the largest and most comprehensive dingo data set to date.
The study concluded that 99% of wild dogs tested were pure dingoes or dingo-dominant hybrids, i.e. a hybrid canine with more than 50 per cent dingo genes. Of the remaining 1%, roughly half were dog-dominant hybrids and the other half feral dogs.
"We don't have a feral dog problem in Australia," says Dr Kylie Cairns, a conservation biologist from UNSW Science and lead author of the study. "They just aren't established in the wild.
Professor Mike Letnic, senior author of the study and professor of conservation biology, has been researching dingoes and their interaction with the ecosystem for 25 years. "As apex predators, dingoes play a fundamental role in shaping ecosystems by keeping number of herbivores and smaller predators in check," says Prof. Letnic.
Despite the valuable role they play in the ecosystem, dingoes are not being conserved across Australia -- unlike many other native species such as koalas and wallabies.
"Dingoes are a listed threatened species in Victoria, so they're protected in national parks," says Dr Cairns. "But they're not protected in NSW and many other states."
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