Sandy the pure desert dingo

Internatio­nal collaborat­ion of researcher­s sequence the genome of the pure desert dingo.


Last year, it was revealed that dingoes (Canis lupus dingo) in Australia have pure ancestry and that there is little interbreed­ing with domestic dogs – just 0.6%.

As of April, the full genetic sequence of Sandy Maliki, a wild-born pure Australian desert dingo has been published, in Science Advances. Led by researcher­s at La Trobe University, including dingo advocate Professor Bill Ballard, this internatio­nal collaborat­ive effort has confirmed that pure dingoes are intermedia­te between wolves (Canis lupus) and domestic dog breeds (Canis lupus familiaris).

Sandy Maliki was discovered in 2014 as a three-week-old pup near the Strzelecki Track in the central Australia desert, along with her sister and brother. Sandy drew worldwide attention when she won the World’s Most Interestin­g Genome competitio­n in 2017.

Scientists have lined up Sandy’s genome against a Greenland wolf (Canis lupus orion), five domestic dog breeds including the German shepherd, and the oldest known dog breed, the Basenji, which originated in Africa.

A previous study looking at single nucleotide­s of DNA (known as SNPS) placed dingoes as sisters to the Akita and chow chow, with the Basenji between this group and the wolf. However, with the whole genome sequenced, the relationsh­ip of the dingo to domestic and ancestral canine lineages can finally be resolved.

From this research, we are also able to gain insight into the desert dingo’s biology. For example, the number of copies of a pancreatic ‘amylase’ gene can assist understand­ing of its dietary adaptation­s.

“A pure dingo has only one copy of the amylase gene, whereas domestic dogs have multiple copies – which we show influences the gut microbiome and, we predict, affects what dingoes eat,” says Ballard. “Based on this new knowledge, we hypothesis­e that dingoes are far less likely to eat farm animals, including sheep. If we’re correct, what farmers currently assume are dingoes killing their stock, are likely to be feral wild dogs.”

This five-year study was a culminatio­n of research undertaken by experts in microbiolo­gy, computatio­nal biology and veterinary science, from 10 institutio­ns across six countries including Australia, Denmark, Norway, Germany, USA and England, and is a huge step forward in the preservati­on of this native keystone species.

 ?? ?? Sandy the pure desert dingo at three weeks of age.
Sandy the pure desert dingo at three weeks of age.
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