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Type: Article
Published: 2017-09-04
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The Wayward Dog: Is the Australian native dog or Dingo a distinct species?

Animal Biosecurity & Food Safety, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Orange, New South Wales 2800, Australia. School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW 2052. Division of Mammals, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20013-7012, USA.
School of Archaeology & Anthropology, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.
Vertebrate Pest Research Unit, Biosecurity NSW, NSW Department of Primary Industries, Orange, New South Wales 2800, Australia. School of Environmental & Rural Science, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.
Division of Mammals, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC 20013-7012, USA.
Australian Museum Research Institute, Australian Museum, 1 William St. Sydney, NSW 2010, Australia.
School of Archaeology & Anthropology, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.
School of Biological Sciences, Environment Institute, and ARC (Australian Research Council) Centre for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage, University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA 5005, Australia.
Mammalia behaviour Dingo dog domesticate free-roaming dog genetics hybridisation morphology New Guinea Singing Dog reproduction species concept taxonomy


The taxonomic identity and status of the Australian Dingo has been unsettled and controversial since its initial description in 1792. Since that time it has been referred to by various names including Canis dingo, Canis lupus dingo, Canis familiaris and Canis familiaris dingo. Of these names C. l. dingo and C. f. dingo have been most often used, but it has recently been proposed that the Australian Dingo should be once again recognized as a full species—Canis dingo. There is an urgent need to address the instability of the names referring to the Dingo because of the consequences for management and policy. Therefore, the objective of this study was to assess the morphological, genetic, ecological and biological data to determine the taxonomic relationships of the Dingo with the aim of confirming the correct scientific name. The recent proposal for Canis dingo as the most appropriate name is not sustainable under zoological nomenclature protocols nor based on the genetic and morphological evidence. Instead we proffer the name C. familiaris for all free-ranging dogs, regardless of breed and location throughout the world, including the Australian Dingo. The suggested nomenclature also provides a framework for managing free-ranging dogs including Dingoes, under Australian legislation and policy. The broad principles of nomenclature we discuss here apply to all free-roaming dogs that coexist with their hybrids, including the New Guinea Singing Dog.



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