The sequencing of the genome for the pure Desert Dingo has revealed the evolutionary positioning of the animal, leading to a hypothesis that dingoes are far less likely to eat farm animals.
An international research consortium led by La Trobe University has found that the dingo is an intermediary between grey wolves and domestic dogs.
The report published in Science Advances showed the complete genetic sequence of a wild-born, pure Australian Desert Dingo named Sandy Maliki who was discovered as a three-week-old pup.
She was found by a roadside in outback South Australia near the Strzelecki Track with her sister and brother.
Scientists lined up Sandy's genome against a Greenland Wolf and five domestic dog breeds, including the German Shepherd and the Basenji.
Senior author of the study, Bill Ballard from La Trobe University, said figuring out the genetic code work has potential implications for the health of all modern breed dogs.
"It gives us much clearer insight into how the dingo evolved - which is fascinating from a scientific point of view, but also opens up all sorts of new ways to monitor their health, and ensure their long-term survival," Professor Ballard said.
Professor Ballard said dingo survival is necessary to maintaining a healthy and balanced ecosystem.
"Dingoes are Australia's 'top order predator', meaning they influence everything in their environment," Professor Ballard said.
"If dingoes aren't given the protection they deserve, it will upset the country's ecological balance - potentially leading to environmental issues like erosion and species extinction," he said.
Professor Ballard said a main difference between dingoes and dogs were the number of copies of the pancreatic 'amylase' gene.
"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." Professor Ballard said.
"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,"
The research consortium that undertook the research project included microbiology, computational biology, and veterinary science experts.
Along with La Trobe, other research institutions contributing to the study include UNSW, James Cook University, Melbourne University, the Garvin Institute.
Other institutions based in Denmark, Norway, Germany, the USA, and England also contributed to the study.
The five-year study commenced after Sandy won the World's Most Interesting Genome competition held by US biotech company Pacific Biosciences in 2017, which was decided by public vote.
Further research on dingo genomes will study whether the dingo has ever been domesticated and asses levels and impacts of pure dingo crossbreeding with domestic dogs.
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