The dingo is a dog that is found in Australia. The species name is debated: it is variously called Canis familiaris, Canis familiaris dingo, Canis lupus dingo, or Canis dingo. It is either a purebred, if breeding only in the wild, or a hybrid of a purebred dingo and a domesticated dog. It is a medium-sized canid that possesses a lean, hardy body adapted for speed, agility, and stamina. The dingo's three main coat colours are: light ginger or tan, black and tan, or creamy white. The skull, the widest part of the dingo, is wedge-shaped and large in proportion to the body. It differs from that of the domestic dog by its larger palatal width, longer rostrum, shorter skull height, and wider sagittal crest.
The earliest known dingo fossil, found in Western Australia, dates to 3,450 years ago, which led to the presumption that dingoes came to Australia with seafarers prior to that time. Dingo morphology has not changed over the past 3,500 years: this suggests that no artificial selection has been applied over this period.
The dingo is closely related to the New Guinea singing dog: their lineage split early from the lineage that led to today's domestic dogs, and can be traced back through the Malay Archipelago to Asia. A recent genetic study shows that the lineage of those dingoes found today in the northwestern part of the Australian continent split from the lineage of the New Guinea singing dog and southeastern dingo 6,300 BC, followed by a split between the New Guinea singing dog lineage from the southeastern dingo lineage 5,800 BC. The study proposes that two dingo migrations occurred when sea levels were lower and Australia and New Guinea formed one landmass named Sahul that existed until 6,500–8,000 years ago. Seafarers from south-west Sulawesi in modern-day Indonesia may have brought the dingo to northern Australia.
The dingo's habitat covers most of Australia, but they are absent in the southeast and Tasmania, a strip on the northeastern coast, and an area in the southwest (see map). Dingoes prey on mammals up to the size of the large red kangaroo, in addition to birds, reptiles, fish, crabs, frogs, insects, and seeds. The dingo's competitors include the native quoll, the introduced European red fox and the feral cat. A dingo pack usually consists of a mated pair, their offspring from the current year, and sometimes offspring from the previous year.
The first British colonists who settled at Port Jackson in 1788 recorded dingoes living with indigenous Australians. When livestock farming began expanding across Australia in the early 19th century, dingoes began preying on sheep and cattle. Numerous population-control measures have been implemented since then, with only limited success. The dingo is recognised as a native animal under the laws of all Australian jurisdictions. It is listed as a "vulnerable species" on the IUCN Red List due to declining numbers.
The dingo plays a prominent role in the Dreamtime stories of indigenous Australians; however, it rarely appears depicted in their cave paintings when compared with the extinct thylacine, also known as the Tasmanian wolf.
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