Research highlight

Ecology: Dingoes may have arrived in Australia more recently than previously thought

Scientific Reports

July 20, 2018

Dingoes may have arrived in southern Australia between 3,348 and 3,081 years ago, more recently than previous estimates suggested, according to a study in Scientific Reports.

Jane Balme, Sue O’Connor and Stewart Fallon selected samples of fingertip bones from two dingoes found in the Madura Cave on the Nullarbor Plain in southern Australia, for direct accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) dating - a precise radiocarbon dating technique. They found that dingoes may have been present in southern Australia between 3,348 and 3,081 years ago - later than previous estimates, which vary from between 5,000 and 4,000 years ago.

As there is no land bridge connecting Australia to southeast Asia, the arrival of dingoes in Australia independent of humans is unlikely. The findings suggest that dingoes may have arrived on watercraft as companion animals to Aboriginal people and their presence can therefore be seen as evidence for visits by people from outside mainland Australia. Their relationship to humans may also have allowed dingoes to spread more rapidly throughout Australia than previously thought, meaning that previous estimates of when they arrived in Australia may need to be adjusted.

As their arrival may be linked to the extinction of a number of other species, including the Tasmanian tiger, a better understanding of the timing of dingo arrival in Australia is important, according to the authors.

doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-28324-x

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