Dingo skull resistant to change from cross breeding with dogs
published in Evolutionary Biology has found the dingo skull shape remains unchanged by cross breeding, overturning long-held fears that cross breeding may result in the loss of the predator's ecological niche.
"We know that cross breeding has an effect on the dingo gene pool but what we didn't know until now is whether cross breeding changes the dingo skull," said study lead author Dr William Parr, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at UNSW Medicine's Surgical and Orthopaedic Research Laboratory.
"This study has shown us that the dingo skull shape, which in part determines feeding ability, is more dominant than dog skull shapes," Dr Parr said.
Conservationists and ecologists had worried that any change in the animals' skull shape through hybridisation could alter feeding habits, potentially causing knock-on effects throughout the entire ecosystem.
|A visual comparison of the different skull shapes for a dingo, hybrid and wild caught dog. |
Can you tell the difference? The pink skull is the dingo, the purple skull is the hybrid
and the green skull is the wild dog breed [Credit: W.C.H. Parr]
The researchers found hybrid skulls were indistinguishable from those of the dingo, meaning they could not tell the difference with the naked eye or statistically.
Canis dingo was largely isolated from other canids (dogs, wolves, foxes, jackals) after it was introduced to the Australian continent around 3,000 years ago. But this changed when European settlers arrived with domestic dogs.
The researchers think that the dominance of the dingo skull shape is most likely due to recessive, potentially adverse, traits being fixed in dogs, with many breeds having narrower gene pools than the dingo.
Study co-author Dr Laura Wilson, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at UNSW Science's School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, said relatively little is known about how different regions of the skull may alter on a short time scale, such as after a hybridisation event as seen with dogs and dingoes.
"Those patterns have implications for understanding variation in the wild, which is important for predicting how an animal may respond to future ecological challenges," Dr Wilson said.
Source: University of New South Wales [March 10, 2016]