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Australia's Dingo Classified as Distinct Species

Apr 01, 2014 08:39 AM EDT

Australian researchers have now classified the dingo as a distinct Australian animal. The species is named Canis dingo.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of New South Wales and colleagues, shows that the canine is different from both wolves and dogs and is not a subspecies.

Dingoes are golden or reddish brown in color and communicate using wolf-like howls, according to National Geographic.

Is it a dog or a wolf?                     

The confusion over dingo's classification arose due to a study on dingoes in the 18th century journal of Australia's first governor, Arthur Phillip. The description of dingoes in the journal was based on drawings without a reference to a physical specimen, according to Reuters.

For the present study, researchers searched for ancient dingo skulls. The team analyzed 69 specimens to construct a description of the dingo. Features unique to the dingo include a broad head, long snout, erect ears and bushy tail, according to a news release.

"Now any wild canid - dingo, dog, or hybrid of the two - can be judged against that classification," said Dr Crowther, from the University of Sydney's School of Biological Sciences."We can also conclusively say that the dingo is a distinctive Australian wild canid or member of the dog family in its own right, separate from dogs and wolves. The appropriate scientific classification is Canis dingo, as they appear not to be descended from wolves, are distinct from dogs and are not a subspecies."

The study is published in the Journal of Zoology.

Dingoes are Australia's largest predator and play an important role in maintaining local biodiversity. According to the researchers, understanding dingoes will help conservation agencies chalk-out better plans to save local fauna.

"Distinguishing dingoes from their hybrids (cross-breeds) with feral dogs is a practical concern. Current policies in parts of Australia support the conservation of dingoes but the extermination of 'dingo-dogs', which are considered a major pest because they kill livestock," said Dr Crowther.

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