Crikey! The Native Australian Dingo Was Originally From South China?

A new study has found genetic evidence that dingoes originated in South China and traveled through Southeast Asia and Indonesia to reach their Australian destination.

AsianScientist (Sep. 9, 2011) – An international team of researchers from Sweden, Australia, Japan, and Thailand has discovered that Australia’s native dog – the dingo – may have arrived here much earlier and by quite a different route than previously thought.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, found genetic evidence that dingoes and New Guinea’s native singing dogs originated in South China and traveled through Southeast Asia and Indonesia to reach their destinations – not, as previously believed, through Taiwan and The Philippines, which would have required multiple sea crossings.

“Clearly, the land route is much more feasible for dogs than the sea route,” said co-author Dr. Alan Wilton, a geneticist from the University of New South Wales.

Although the earliest archeological record of dingoes is about 3,500 years old, new genetic studies suggest the dingo last shared a common ancestor with the domestic dog at least 5,000 years ago, Dr. Wilton said.

The study made genetic comparisons of more than 900 dogs and dingoes, plus three New Guinea singing dogs. Samples came from South China, mainland Southeast Asia, Indonesia, New Guinea, the Philippines, and Taiwan, as well as genes previously identified among ancient, pre-European samples from Polynesia and the Australian dingo.

It confirmed South China as the most likely origin of domestic dogs, probably about 10,000 to 16,000 years ago.

Genetic variants found only in dingoes and New Guinea singing dogs suggest their dispersal occurred earlier than the dogs that accompanied the first people to colonize Polynesia, from about 3,000 years ago.

The study notes that the dog is unique in that it was the only domestic animal accompanying humans to every continent in ancient times and was the only domestic animal introduced into ancient Australia.

“The dispersal of dogs is also linked to the human history of the region, and may contribute knowledge about, for example, the geographical origins of the Polynesian population and its Neolithic culture, and the extent of contact between the pre-Neolithic cultures of Australia with the surrounding world,” the study said.

Dingoes and New Guinea singing dogs share a genetic marker in common with other dogs but lack a mutation found elsewhere, notably in East Asia, suggesting that the dingo population was founded from a small number of dogs.

The article can be found at: Oskarsson MCR et al. (2011) Mitochondrial DNA data indicate an introduction through Mainland Southeast Asia for Australian dingoes and Polynesian domestic dogs.


Source: University of New South Wales.
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