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Type: Article
Published: 2019-03-04
Page range: 173–197
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Taxonomic status of the Australian dingo: the case for Canis dingo Meyer, 1793

School of Health, Medical and Applied Sciences, Central Queensland University, Adelaide, South Australia 5034, Australia.
Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales 2052, Australia.
Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria 3800, Australia.
School of Life and Environmental Sciences, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia.
Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales 2351, Australia.
Department of Comparative Cognition, Université de Neuchâtel, CH - 2000 Neuchâtel, Switzerland.
Surgical and Orthopaedic Research Laboratory, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales 2052, Australia.
Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales 2052, Australia.
Desert Ecology Research Group, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia.
Environmental Futures Research Institute, Griffith University, Nathan, Queensland 4111, Australia.
Global Ecology, College of Science and Engineering, Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia 5001, Australia.
KTH Royal Institute of Technology, School of Engineering Sciences in Chemistry, Biotechnology and Health, Department of Gene Technology, Science for Life Laboratory, SE-171 65, Solna, Sweden.
Centre for Integrative Ecology (Burwood Campus), School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria 3125, Australia.
School of Environmental Science, Charles Sturt University, Albury, New South Wales 2650, Australia.
School of Communication and Creative Industries, University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore Dc, Queensland 4558, Australia.
Desert Ecology Research Group, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales 2006 Australia and School of Life Sciences, University of Technology Sydney, Ultimo, New South Wales 2007, Australia.
Desert Ecology Research Group, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia.
Australian Dingo Foundation, Gisborne, Victoria 3437, Australia.
Centre for Ecosystem Science, School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of New South Wales, Sydney, New South Wales 2052, Australia.
Centre for Integrative Ecology (Burwood Campus), School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University, Geelong, Victoria 3125, Australia
Centre for Compassionate Conservation, Faculty of Science, University of Technology Sydney, Ultimo, New South Wales 2007, Australia.
Biosphere Environmental Consultants, Cairns, Queensland 4870, Australia.
School of Life and Environmental Sciences, The University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales 2006, Australia.
Mammalia dingo dog canid Canidae domestication hybridisation nomenclature species concept taxonomy


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.



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