Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Canine Figments of the Imagination

The press is twittering over the notion that there might be a Tasmanian Tiger still extent in Northern Australia.

There's no such animal there.

The marsupial wolf, known as the Tasmanian Tiger, has not been seen in mainland Australian for at least 2,000 years. I'm not saying there's not a possible animal in Tasmania, but northern Australia? Nope.  That said, perhaps the camera trap effort to follow will give a better view of local wildlife numbers.

Along the same lines, I have been sent several links to stories about how the "New Guinea Highland Wild Dog," once thought extinct, has been "rediscovered."

Nope.  Look, I'm not interested in breaking anyone's begging bowl, but the "New Guinea Highland Wild Dog," aka the New Guinea Singing Dog has never been thought to be extinct.  There are at least 15 zoos in the U.S. with New Guinea Singing Dogs on display, and no one who has seriously looked for the dogs in the wild high mountain valleys of Papua New Guinea at 8,000-15,000 feet has ever failed to find them.

This is not to say that getting to 8,000 to 15,000 feet up the very steep mountains of remote Papua New Guinea is easy. The land is very steep, there are few roads of any kind, the ground is often marsh-like, bugs are everywhere, and it's a strictly "hope you don't die out there" kind of habitat. As for the Singing Dogs themselves, they are every bit as wary of man as any wild canid, and they do not seem to form large packs.  No wonder they are not see by the average soft-bodied ecco-tourist! There are fox and coyote running all over the U.S., but most Americans have never actually seen one!

For the record, New Guinea Singing Dogs are simply a type of dingo. An analysis of New Guinea Singing Dog mDNA shows that females have haplotype A29, and an analysis of male DNA show they have haplotype H60, which is the same as we find in dingoes in northern Australia

It should also be noted that the village dogs in remote Papua New Guinea appear to be completely undifferentiated from wild Singing Dogs, and studies suggest that the wild dogs and the village dogs are, in fact, one continuous gene pool differentiated by not by genetics, but by assimilation and early habituation to humans.



Federico said...

Do people keep dogs in zoos in the US? that -is- odd.

PBurns said...

The New Guinea Singing Dog is not much of a dog. As noted, it's basically a dingo that can be acclimated to come to a feed bowl, same as every other wild animal.

New Guinea Singing dogs are extremely primitive wild dogs that are rarely kept as pets as they tend to be very shy, extremely territorial, and have a marked tendency to be aggressive towards other dogs. They do not look towards humans for signals, have an extremely strong prey drive, are very difficult to train, and are not social animals by nature.

A partial list of zoos with Singers can be found here >> and includes zoo in the UK. Germany,, and the Czech Republic.

New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation said...

We suspect that once we’re able to do proper comparative samples of Dingoes, NGSDs and HWDs they will all fall together under a single taxonony/phylogeny as a separate species (with subspecies of each) of canis (taxonomy and phylogeny are currently indeterminate). (i.e., sister species.) Recent research and a paper by Dr. Kylie Cairns has demonstrated that the wild dogs that fall into this category likely migrated independently of humans in the pre-agricultural/pre-domestication period, indicating they were more likely wild dogs that were domesticated versus domestic dogs that became feral (with feral and “wild” being a fairly big distinction). However, much more genetic analysis is needed. While current studies and test methods do allow us insight into when and where a species or breed originated and when, placing the HWD as the most ancient of these morphologically similar canids of Asian origin located throughout the world, there is much work to be done to fully characterize the evolutionary trajectory. Previous to HWD location/genetic confirmation, studies were dependent on using NGSD DNA in this position, which was problematic due to the long term captive breeding in a mostly unmonitored, very limited genetic pool. Hence, the wild variant, that tests to date tell us had no introgression from village dogs or domestic canids, the HWD, is very important to telling a better version of the story, or so we currently believe.

In closing, we would add that while the NGHWDF appreciates the very generous press coverage the story has received, we have been cautious to caveat most of the statements we’ve made. While press coverage is fantastic in regard to calling attention to a subject worthy of study, such as the HWD, canids, evolution and conservation, it’s important to remember that the factual, scientific details are found in scientific publications (soon to be released on the HWD) and actual test results and reports.

Thank you for your very honest and critical treatment of the topic. Discussion such as this is both welcome and needed, and the New Guinea HIghland Wild Dog Foundation invites individuals such as yourself to participate in foundation activities and research to ensure that everything is evaluated with a critical eye so the very best answers are obtained. We look forward to your review of soon-to-be-released test results and our scientific publication.

Best Regards,
Lisa Wolf
NGHWDF, Secretary/Behavioral Sciences