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The Dingo (Canis lupus dingo) or Warrigal is a type of Australian canid, which was thought to be descended from the Iranian Wolf (Canis lupus pallipes). DNA analysis has shown it to be more closely related to domestic dogs, suggesting that they were introduced from a population of domesticated dogs, possibly at a single occasion during the Austronesian expansion into Island Southeast Asia. It is commonly described as an Australian wild dog, but is not restricted to Australia, nor did it originate there. Modern dingoes are found throughout Southeast Asia, mostly in small pockets of remaining natural forest, and in mainland Australia, particularly in the north. They have features in common with both wolves and modern dogs, and are regarded as more or less unchanged descendants of an early ancestor of modern dogs. The name dingo comes from the language of the Eora Aboriginal people, who were the original inhabitants of the Sydney area. The New Guinea Singing Dog is also classified as Canis lupus dingo.
Fur colour is typically yellow-ginger, though tan, black, white or sandy including occasional brindle can occur. Albino dingoes have been reported. Any other colours are indicators of hybridization. Purebred dingoes have white hair on their feet and tail tip and lack dewclaws on their hindlegs.
Chromosome number is 2n=78.
The size of a dingo's territory has little to do with pack size, and more to do with terrain and prey resources. Dingoes in south-western Australia have the largest home ranges. Dingoes will sometimes disperse from the natal home ranges, with one specimen having been recorded to travel 250 kilometers (155 miles).
Dingoes do not bark as much as domestic dogs, which can be very loud, and they howl more frequently. Three basic howls with over 10 variations have been recorded. Howling is done to attract distant pack members and it repels intruders. In chorus howling, the pitch of the howling increases with the number of participating members. Males scent mark more frequently than females, peaking during the breeding season.
Like wolves, but unlike domestic dogs, dingoes reproduce once annually. Male dingoes are fertile throughout the year, whereas females are only receptive during their annual estrus cycle. Females become sexually mature at the age of two years, while males obtain it at 1 to 3 years. Dominant females within packs will typically enter estrus earlier than subordinates. Captive dingoes typically have a pro-estrus and estrus period lasting 10–12 days, while for wild specimens it can be as long as 2 months. The gestation period lasts 61–69 days, with litters usually being composed of 5 puppies. There is usually a higher ratio of females than males. Puppies are usually born from May to July, though dingoes living in tropical habitats can reproduce at any time of the year. Puppies are usually born in caves, dry creekbeds or appropriated rabbit or wombat burrows. Puppies become independent at 3–6 months, though puppies living in packs will sometimes remain with their group until the age of 12 months. Unlike in wolf packs, in which the dominant animals prevent subordinates from breeding, alpha dingoes suppress subordinate reproduction through infanticide.
Over 170 different animal species have been recorded in Australia to be included in the dingo's diet, ranging from insects to water buffalo. Prey specialisation varies according to region. In Australia's northern wetlands, the most common prey are magpie geese, dusky rats and agile wallabies, while in arid central Australia, the most frequent prey items are European rabbits, long-haired rats, house mice, lizards and red kangaroos. In north-western habitats, Eastern Wallaroos and red kangaroos are usually taken, while wallabies, possums and wombats are taken in the east and south eastern highlands. In Asia, dingoes live in closer proximity to humans, and will readily feed on rice, fruit and human refuse. Dingoes have been observed hunting insects, rats and lizards in rural areas of Thailand and Sulawesi. Dingoes will usually hunt alone when targeting small prey such as rabbits and will hunt in groups for large prey like kangaroos. Dingoes in Australia will sometimes prey on livestock in times of seasonal scarcity.
Crossbreeding with pet and feral domestic dogs is currently thought to be the dingo's greatest threat for survival. Up to 80% of the wild dogs along Australia’s eastern seaboard are thought to be dog-dingo hybrids. The current Australian policy is to cull hybrids whilst protecting purebreds. This has proved effective on Fraser Island in Queensland, where dingoes are confined and introgression of domestic dog genes can be controlled. It has however proven to be problematic on mainland Australia, to the point where it is estimated that at the current rate of genetic introgression, pure dingoes should go extinct within 50 years. Conservationists are generally split into two groups; those who view hybridization as detrimental to the dingo's uniqueness, and those who believe genetics and appearance are irrelevant, as long as the animals maintain their ecological niche. DNA analyses indicate that hybrids originate from male dogs mating with female dingoes and rarely vice versa. Hybrids may enter estrus twice annually, and have a gestation period of 58–65 days, but it is not sure whether they successfully raise two litters. Some people claim that the Australian Kelpie has some dingo blood; as it was illegal to keep dingoes as pets, some dingo owners registered their animals as Kelpies or Kelpie crosses. It should be noted that Kelpies and dingoes are very similar in conformation and colouring. There is no doubt that some have deliberately mated dingoes to their Kelpies, and some opinion holds that the best dilution is 1/16-1/32, but that 1/2 and 1/4 will work.
European settlers did not discover dingoes until the 17th century, and originally dismissed them as feral dogs. Captain William Dampier, who wrote of the wild dog in 1699, was the first European to first officially note the dingo. Dingo populations flourished with the European's introduction of domestic sheep and European rabbit to the Australian mainland.
The arrival of dingoes is thought by some to have been a major factor in the extinction of the thylacine in mainland Australia. Fossil evidence and Aboriginal paintings show that thylacines once inhabited the entire Australian mainland, only to suddenly disappear about 3,000 years ago. Since dingoes are thought to have arrived around 500 years prior, certain scientists think this was sufficient time for the canids to impact on mainland thylacine populations, either through interspecific competition or through the diffusion of disease. Considering that thylacines managed to survive in the dingo-devoid island of Tasmania until the 1930s, some put this forward as further indirect evidence for dingo responsibility for the thylacine's disappearance. Some however doubt the impact of the dingo, as the two species would not have been in direct competition with one another. The dingo is a primarily diurnal predator, while it is thought the thylacine hunted mostly at night. In addition, the thylacine had a more powerful build, which would have given it an advantage in one-to-one encounters. However, recent morphological examinations on dingo and thylacine skulls by Stephen Wroe of the University of NSW biomechanics show that although the dingo had a weaker bite, it's skull could resist greater stresses, allowing it to pull down larger prey than the thylacine. The thylacine was also much less versatile in diet, unlike the omnivorous dingo.