Going to the dogs

I’ve spent the last few days going back and forth in my mind about this month’s topic. I am fascinated by canids (and quite amazed, when I look at my dog, to think of her progenitors), and there are so many species to choose from- I wanted a topic that was outside of North America since so many of my posts tend to focus on my own continent, and I enjoy learning about as many things as possible, so I wanted to pick something that was very new to me. I think that people around me tend to think foxes and wolves when they hear the term ‘canid’, and that only gets you so far.

Dingo (Canis lupus dingo)

For a day or two I was in the middle of a dingo-dhole debate, neither of which is familiar to me. These species found in Australia and Asia are each appealing in their own way- dingoes are connected to traditional lore and modern suspicion, and dholes are quite the mystery in some ways. The dingo won out to a certain extent, and that’s where my focus will be, but I also hope to broaden the discussion at times to include other wild dogs.

What I know about dingoes is pretty basic: I believe that they came to Australia when humans first arrived- they are not marsupials, unlike most of the other mammals there; there has been friction between sheep ranchers and dingoes because the latter are the top predators in their environment; and, there has also been concern over the danger that dingoes pose to people. I know that Australia is dealing with both exotic species issues and concerns over water supply, and I’m curious to learn about how the dingo fits into and is impacted by those situations. I’m also curious to learn about the ways that dingoes fill important ecosystem roles-I think that sometimes people concentrate on the perceived negatives of having predators around them and forget that ecosystem processes depend upon their presence.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to provide some ecological background on the dingo as well as looking at what researchers are learning about their situation and prospects today. Whether you are a wild-dog lover like me or not, stay tuned for a journey down under.



Posted December 1, 2012 by Mirka Zapletal in Carnivores

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