Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Researcher: It’s not clear whether dingos are really dogs


Maybe they are descended from wolves but never really became dogs?:

Dogs are generally considered the first domesticated animal, while its ancestor is generally considered to be the wolf, but where the Australian dingo fits into this framework is still debated, according to a retired Penn State anthropologist.

“Indigenous Australians understood that there was something different about the dingoes and the colonial dogs,” said Pat Shipman, retired adjunct professor of anthropology, Penn State. “They really are, I think, different animals. They react differently to humans. A lot of genetic and behavioral work has been done with wolves, dogs and dingoes. Dingoes come out somewhere in between.”

Wolves, dogs and dingoes are all species of the canidae family and are called canids. In most animals, hybridization between closely related species does not happen, or like female horses and male donkeys, produce mules — usually non-fertile offspring. However, many canid species, including wolves, dingoes and dogs, can interbreed and produce fertile offspring. Defining species boundaries in canids becomes more difficult.

Domestic dogs came to the Australian continent in 1788 with the first 11 ships of convicts, but dingoes were already there, as were aboriginal Australians who arrived on the continent about 65,000 years ago. A large portion of dingoes in Australia today have domestic dog in their ancestry, but dingoes came to Australia at least 4,000 years ago according to fossil evidence. Shipman believes that date may be even earlier, but no fossils have yet been found. Penn State, “Wolves, dogs and dingoes, oh my” at ScienceDaily

The paper is open access.

Here’s one example of the difference:

While indigenous Australians stole dingo puppies from their dens and raised them, these puppies generally left human homes at maturity and went off to breed and raise offspring. The ability to closely bond with humans is limited in dingoes, although present in dogs. Native Australians also did not manipulate dingo breeding, which is a hallmark of domestication.

Penn State, “Wolves, dogs and dingoes, oh my” at ScienceDaily

Dingoes are limited in their ability to eat starchy foods, which dogs learned from living constantly with humans. Their behavior is thought to be midway between wolves and dogs. Apart from that, no one knows much.

LoneCycler, I appreciate your comment. It made my day, even though I'm a cat person. ;) Andrew asauber
The domestic dog has a transcendent nature demonstrating developed traits that would not have occurred without long association with humans. I don't think dogs would have developed these on their own and at random. Thus, their basic nature does not come from within their species or from evolution of their species. Hundreds of experiments have shown that a dog will follow the gaze and pointing gesture of a human and focus its attention on whatever the human is identifying. Called the "object-choice task" experiment, these routinely show that dogs recognize humans are communicating information to them with their gestures. Chimpanzees don't do this. Wolves, the closest relative to the domestic dog, don't do this. Yes, over time, you can train a Chimp or a Wolf to recognize what the human is telling it. You can "nurture" Chimps and Wolves. But the domestic dog has the "nature" and at a young age to know that even if the human points with a foot, or just nods at the object, even momentarily, that it needs to choose the item so identified. The oldest known dog burial is from 14,200 years ago, which means they had the status as family pets at least that long ago. Their genes suggest they split from the Wolf species up to 40,000 years ago. This is a very long time that humans have been breeding dogs for their compatibility and the result is that they now have a much different nature than they used to have. I think it's fair to say that through selective breeding that humans have "designed" the domestic dog to have the nature that it now has. I think the nature of dogs lie beyond the limits of what we could reasonably expect dogs to become on their own without influence from "outside." The world did not always have dogs, as we know them, in it. It's proof there do exist creatures in this world that have a transcendent nature we can discern. LoneCycler

Leave a Reply