Journal articles

This is a list of peer-reviewed scientific journals from Australia’s leading Dingo experts and scientists.  

2023 – Genome-wide variant analyses reveal new patterns of admixture and population structure in Australian dingoes

Admixture between species is a cause for concern in wildlife management. Canids are particularly vulnerable to interspecific hybridisation, and genetic admixture has shaped their evolutionary history. Microsatellite DNA testing, relying on a small number of genetic markers and geographically restricted reference populations, has identified extensive domestic dog admixture in Australian dingoes and driven con- servation management policy. But there exists a concern that geographic variation in dingo genotypes could confound ancestry analyses that use a small number of ge- netic markers. Here, we apply genome-wide single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) genotyping to a set of 402 wild and captive dingoes collected from across Australia and then carry out comparisons to domestic dogs. We then perform ancestry model- ling and biogeographic analyses to characterise population structure in dingoes and investigate the extent of admixture between dingoes and dogs in different regions of the continent. We show that there are at least five distinct dingo populations across Australia. We observed limited evidence of dog admixture in wild dingoes. Our work challenges previous reports regarding the occurrence and extent of dog admixture in dingoes, as our ancestry analyses show that previous assessments severely over- estimate the degree of domestic dog admixture in dingo populations, particularly in south-eastern Australia. These findings strongly support the use of genome-wide SNP genotyping as a refined method for wildlife managers and policymakers to assess and inform dingo management policy and legislation moving forwards.

2023 – Unlocking Lethal Dingo Management in Australia

Adoption by livestock producers of preventive non-lethal innovations forms a critical pathway towards human and large carnivore coexistence. However, it is impeded by factors such as socio-cultural contexts, governing institutions, and ‘perverse’ economic incentives that result in a ‘lock-in’ of lethal control of carnivores in grazing systems. In Australian rangelands, the dingo is the dominant predator in conflict with ‘graziers’ and is subjected to lethal control measures de- spite evidence indicating that its presence in agricultural landscapes can provide multiple benefits. Here we explore the barriers to the uptake of preventive innovations in livestock grazing through 21 in-depth interviews conducted with Australian graziers, researchers, and conservation and govern- ment representatives. Drawing on Donella Meadow’s leverage points for system change framework, we focus, primarily, on barriers in the ‘political sphere’ because they appear to form the greatest impediment to the adoption of non-lethal tools and practices. These barriers are then discussed in relation to characteristics of lock-in traps (self-reinforcement, persistence, path dependencies, and undesirability) to assess how they constrain the promotion of human–dingo coexistence.

2022 – Can Dingoes increase graziers’ profits and help maintain Australia’s rangelands?

Australia’s largest land carnivore, the dingo, has been targeted by control programs in many agricultural landscapes since European settlement because of the judgement that dingoes cause costs to producers through the killing of livestock. As Australian pastoralists, we challenge the assumption that dingoes will only cause costs to producers. Based on our personal experiences and from research, we provide an alternative view, namely that in certain circumstances, there are major economic and ecological benefits of maintaining dingoes in grazing landscapes by controlling the unmanaged grazing pressure. As cattle producers, we have obtained significant financial gains for our family businesses, and environmental benefits on our properties by maintaining dingoes.

Dingoes greatly reduce high-density populations of larger kangaroo species and some feral animals, especially goats. Such unmanaged grazing is persistently identified as a major factor in landscape degradation across large areas of Australian rangelands. The Australian pastoral industry as a whole, and the government departments that support it, need to evaluate, consider and discuss the economic and ecological benefits as well as the costs of maintaining dingoes in Australian pastoral landscapes.

2023 – Pathways to coexistence with dingoes across Australian farming landscapes

Agriculture and biodiversity conservation are both vitally important human activities that overlap geographically and are often in conflict. Animal agriculture has been implicated in species loss and the degradation of ecosystems due to land clearing, overgrazing, and conflicts with large carnivores such as dingoes (Canis dingo). This paper explores the potential for transformation in Australian commercial livestock production from human- dingo conflict towards social-ecological coexistence.

A qualitative model that depicts transformative change was developed from field observations and twenty-one in-depth interviews with livestock producers, conservation researchers, grazing industry representatives and policy makers across Australia. The model articulates the current state of dingo management and the drivers of system change.

Seven pathways are described to catalyse transformation from routine lethal management of dingoes towards a future vision that embeds mutually beneficial coexistence. Central to transformation is the adoption by livestock producers of preventive non-lethal innovations supported by a new farming movement, Predator Smart Farming, that balances livestock grazing and wildlife conservation values to unlock the resilience of landscapes, animals (domesticated and wild) and livelihoods. Other key pathways include targeted research, capacity building, outreach and knowledge sharing networks; institutional (policy, legislation, and economic incentives) and cultural change; public awareness raising and advocacy to reduce lethal control; and greater involvement of Indigenous Australians in decisions relating to wildlife management.

The seven transition pathways are discussed in relation to how they can collectively foster coexistence with dingoes in extensive rangelands grazing systems. International examples of interventions are used to illustrate the types of successful actions associated with each pathway that could inform action in Australia. The findings have implications for coexistence with large carnivores in rangeland ecosystems globally.

2021Lethal Control reduces the relative abundance of dingoes but not cattle production impacts

Lethal control through the application of 1080 baits is widely used in Australia to manage the negative impacts of wild dogs (dingoes, wild domestic dogs and their hybrids) on cattle production, but its effectiveness in this regard is not well understood. The key results from this study was that no difference was detected in observed levels of calf damage or calf loss between poisoned and non-poisoned areas. The results add to the growing body of consistent evidence that contemporary dingo control practices yield little benefit to rangeland beef producers most of the time. Routine dingo baiting (as currently undertaken) may be largely unnecessary for beef cattle producers in arid and semiarid areas. Alternative strategies and practices to reduce dingo mauling and predation impacts should be investigated using replicated and controlled field studies.

2021 – The myth of wild dogs in Australia: are there any out there?

Hybridisation between wild and domestic canids is a global conservation and management issue. In Australia, Dingoes are a distinct lineage of wild-living canid with a controversial domestication status. They are mainland Australia’s apex terrestrial predator. There is ongoing concern that the identity of dingoes has been threatened from breeding with domestic dogs, and that feral dogs have established populations in rural Australia. We collate the results of microsatellite DNA testing from 5039 wild canids to explore patterns of domestic dog ancestry in dingoes and observations of feral domestic dogs across the continent. Only 31 feral dogs were detected, challenging the perception that feral dogs are widespread in Australia. First generation dingo/dog hybrids were similarly rare, with only 27 individuals identified. Spatial patterns of genetic ancestry across Australia identified that dingo populations in northern, western and central Australia were largely free from domestic dog introgression. Our findings challenge the perception that dingoes are virtually extinct in the wild and that feral dogs are common. A shift in terminology from wild dog to dingo would better reflect the identity of these wild canids and allow more nuanced debate about the balance between conservation and management of dingoes in Australia.

2020 – The Dingo as a management tool on a beef cattle enterprise in western Queensland

This is a paper from third-generation cattle grazier and naturalist Angus Emmott of Noonbah Station. Emmott highlights the benefits of maintaining a stable dingo population, both for his cattle enterprise and the health of his local ecology. He also calls attention to the adverse effects when the dingo is removed from the landscape or has their populations destabilized and fractured through relentless lethal control programs.

2019 – Taxonomic status of the Australian dingo: the case for Canis dingo Meyer, 1793

The taxonomic status and systematic nomenclature of the Australian dingo remain contentious, resulting in decades of inconsistent applications in the scientific literature and in policy. Prompted by a recent publication calling for Dingoes to be considered taxonomically as domestic dogs (Jackson et al. 2017, Zootaxa 4317, 201-224), we review the issues of the taxonomy applied to canids, and summarise the main differences between dingoes and other canids. We conclude that (1) the Australian Dingo is a geographically isolated (allopatric) species from all other Canis, and is genetically, phenotypically, ecologically, and behaviourally distinct; and (2) the Dingo appears largely devoid of many of the signs of domestication, including surviving largely as a wild animal in Australia for millennia.

The case of defining Dingo taxonomy provides a quintessential example of the disagreements between species concepts (e.g., biological, phylogenetic, ecological, morphological). Applying the biological species concept sensu stricto to the dingo as suggested by Jackson et al. (2017) and consistently across the Canidae would lead to an aggregation of all Canis populations, implying for example that dogs and wolves are the same species. Such an aggregation would have substantial implications for taxonomic clarity, biological research, and wildlife conservation.

Any changes to the current nomen of the Dingo (currently Canis dingo Meyer, 1793), must therefore offer a strong, evidence-based argument in favour of it being recognised as a subspecies of Canis lupus Linnaeus, 1758, or as Canis familiaris Linnaeus, 1758, and a successful application to the International Commission for Zoological Nomenclature – neither of which can be adequately supported. Although there are many species concepts, the sum of the evidence presented in this paper affirms the classification of the dingo as a distinct taxon, namely Canis dingo.

2014 – An updated description of the Australian dingo (Canis dingo Meyer, 1793)

Recent research has documented the positive role that dingoes have on biodiversity conservation through their regulation of trophic cascades.  Efforts to harness the ecological interactions of dingoes are hampered by the uncertain taxonomy of the dingo. In particular, the dingo’s taxonomic status is clouded by hybridization with feral dogs and confusion about how to distinguish ‘pure’ dingoes from dingo-dog hybrids.  Many managers currently cull animals they believe to be hybrids based on pelage coloration. 

Wild dog control impacts on calf wastage in extensive beef cattle enterprises

Data suggests that controlling ‘wild dog’s to protect calves on extensive beef cattle enterprises is unnecessary in most years because ‘wild dogs’ do not routinely prey on calves. In those seasons when wild dog predation might occur, baiting can be counter-productive. Baiting appears to produce perturbations that change the way surviving or re-colonising ‘wild dog’ populations select and handle prey and/or how they interact with livestock.

Ecological and economic benefits to cattle rangelands of restoring an apex predator

The conservation of terrestrial carnivores is hampered by economic conflicts between predation and livestock production. The dingo Canis dingo is the top predator in Australia’s terrestrial ecosystems but its abundance is controlled because it preys on livestock. Dingo control (poisoning, shooting) is associated with increased densities of wild herbivores, which can lead to reduced cattle condition and fertility through competition for pasture.

Good dog! Using livestock guardian dogs to protect livestock from predators in Australia’s extensive grazing systems

Wild predators are a serious threat to livestock in Australia. Livestock guardian dogs (LGDs) may be able to reduce or eliminate predation, but their effectiveness in Australian grazing systems has not been systematically evaluated. In particular, little is known about the effectiveness of LGDs in situations where they range freely over large areas in company with large numbers of livestock.

Pack size and prey behaviour affects prey selection and the predation of livestock by dingoes

Dingo control (1080 baiting) increased the magnitude and frequency of predation loss of calves relative to adjacent areas where dingoes were left alone. Dingo control primarily results in reduced pack size. Reduced pack size and pack coordination prevent disturbed dingo populations from efficiently capturing the larger macropod prey.

Demographic and functional responses of wild dogs to poison baiting

Lethal control of wild dogs – that is Dingo and Dingo/Dog hybrids – to reduce livestock predation in Australian rangelands is claimed to cause continental-scale impacts on biodiversity. Although top predator populations may recover numerically after baiting, they are predicted to be functionally different and incapable of fulfilling critical ecological roles.

Resolving the value of the dingo in ecological restoration

There is global interest in restoring populations of apex predators, both to conserve them and to harness their ecological services. In Australia, reintroduction of dingoes (Canis dingo) has been proposed to help restore degraded rangelands. This proposal is based on theories and the results of studies suggesting that dingoes can suppress populations of prey (especially medium- and large-sized herbivores) and invasive predators such as red foxes and feral cats that prey on threatened native species. However, the idea of dingo reintroduction has met opposition, especially from scientists who query the dingo’s positive effects for some species or in some environments.

Carnivore conservation needs evidence-based livestock protection

Carnivore predation on livestock often leads people to retaliate. Persecution by humans has contributed strongly to global endangerment of carnivores. Preventing livestock losses would help to achieve three goals common to many human societies: preserve nature, protect animal welfare, and safeguard human livelihoods.

Does dingo predation control the densities of kangaroos and emus?

The density of red kangaroos in the sheep country of the north-west corner of New South Wales is much higher now that it was last century. It is also much higher than the present density across the dingo fence in the adjacent cattle country of South Australia and Queensland. The past and present patterns of red kangaroo density are attributable directly to predation by dingoes, which can hold kangaroos at very low density in open country if the dingoes have access to an abundant alternative prey.

A comment on the influence of dingoes on the Australian sheep flock

Dingo predation can reduce the profitability of affected sheep properties and has important negative social effect on rural communities, and that exclusion fences and a range of lethal control methods are options for reducing those negative effects. However, it is argued that the importance of dingoes as a cause of the decline in Australia’s sheep flock has been overstated.

Rarity of a top predator triggers continent-wide collapse of mammal prey: dingoes and marsupials in Australia

Top predators in terrestrial ecosystems may limit populations of smaller predators that could otherwise become over-abundant and cause declines and extinctions of some prey.  Results suggest that the rarity of dingoes was a critical factor which allowed smaller predators to overwhelm marsupial prey, triggering extinction over much of the continent. This is evidence of a crucial role of top predators in maintaining prey biodiversity at large scales in terrestrial ecosystems and suggests that many remaining Australian mammals would benefit from the positive management of dingoes.

Ecosystem restoration with teeth: what role for predators?

Recent advances highlight the potential for predators to restore ecosystems and confer resilience against globally threatening processes, including climate change and biological invasions.  Restoring the functional roles of predators is hindered by significant challenges.  Management must recognise that predators can have both desirable and undesirable impacts depending on ecosystem contexts, and also that the ecological effectiveness of predator populations might be dictated as much by their social structure and behaviour as by population density.

Top predators as biodiversity regulators:  the dingo Canis lupus dingo as a case study

Top-order predators often have positive effects on biological diversity owing to their key functional roles in regulating trophic cascades and other ecological processes.  The loss of Dingoes has been linked to widespread losses of small and medium-sized native mammals, the depletion of plant biomass due to the effects of irrupting herbivore populations and increased predation rates by red foxes.

Keystone effects of an alien top-predator stem extinctions of native mammals

Using field data collected throughout arid Australia, evidence is provided that removal of a top-predator, the dingo, has cascading effects through lower trophic levels. Dingo removal was linked to increased activity of herbivores and an invasive mesopredator, the red fox, and to the loss of grass cover and native species of small mammals.

Effects of predator control on behaviour of an apex predator and indirect consequences for mesopredator suppression

Apex predators can benefit ecosystems through topdown control of mesopredators and herbivores.  However, apex predators are often subject to lethal control aimed at minimizing attacks on livestock.  Lethal control can affect both the abundance and behaviour of apex predators.  These changes could affect both the abundance and behaviour of mesopredators.  Results suggest that effective Dingo control not only leads to higher abundance of feral cats, but allows them to optimize hunting behaviour when Dingoes are less active.  The double effect could amplify the impacts of Dingo control on prey species selected by cats.  In areas managed for conservation, stable Dingo populations may thus contribute to management objectives by restricting feral cat access to prey populations.

Does a  top-predator provide an endangered rodent with refuge from an invasive mesopredator?

In arid environments, ecological refuges are often conceptualised as places where animal species can persist through drought owing to the localised persistence of moisture and nutrients.  The mesopredator release hypothesis (MRH) predicts that reduced abundance of top-order predators results in an increase in the abundance of smaller predators (mesopredators) and consequently has detrimental impacts on the existence of the prey of the smaller predators.  Top-order predators, such as Dingoes, could have an important functional role in broad scale biodiversity conservation programmes by reducing the impacts of mesopredators.

The following articles are behind pay-walls:  the complete articles are inaccessible unless you would like to pay for the article, or if you have a ResearchGate/similar account. A brief overview is included, direct from the author’s abstracts that are available freely online.

Dingo interactions with exotic mesopredators: spatiotemporal dynamics in an Australian arid-zone study

Apex predators occupy the top level of the trophic cascade and often perform regulatory functions in many ecosystems. Their removal has been shown to increase herbivore and mesopredator populations, and ultimately reduce species diversity. In Australia, it has been proposed that the apex predator, the dingo (Canis dingo), has the potential to act as a biological control agent for two introduced mesopredators, the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) and the feral cat (Felis catus). Understanding the mechanisms of interaction among the three species may assist in determining the effectiveness of the dingo as a control agent and the potential benefits to lower-order species.

More buck for less bang: Reconciling competing wildlife management interests in agricultural food webs

Kangaroo abundance was associated most strongly with bottom-up forces (rainfall) as expected, but a combination of bottom-up (rainfall) and top-down (dingo control) processes best explained variation in kangaroo abundance trends. Supplementary economic analysis indicated that ongoing kangaroo competition with cattle is far more costly to beef producers than the occasional predation of calves by dingoes. These results suggest that lethal top-predator control practices in arid Australia may not be achieving their fundamental aim (to increase livestock production) because increased competition from native herbivores freed from top-predator suppression erodes the accrued economic benefits of a reduction in livestock predation. These data suggest that retaining top-predators outside reserves in agro-ecosystems may be advantageous to livestock producers and ecosystems where and/or when top-predators exert stronger effects on livestock competitors than they do on livestock.

Dingo baiting did not reduce fetal/calf loss in beef cattle in northern South Australia

Beef cattle production is the major agricultural pursuit in the arid rangelands of Australia. Dingo predation is often considered a significant threat to production in rangeland beef herds, but there is a need for improved understanding of the effects of dingo baiting on reproductive wastage. The overall scale and timing of fetal/calf loss was not correlated with dingo activity, time of year, a satellite-derived measure of landscape greenness (normalised difference vegetation index), or activity of alternative dingo prey.  It is likely that ground baiting, as applied, was ineffective in protecting calves, or that site effects, variable cow age and disease confounded results.

Longreach calf_ AngusEmmott
Dingo - Canis dingo
red-kangaroo-picture-id511653090John Carmello