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

Bradley P. Smith, Kylie M. Cairns, Justin W. Adams, Thomas M. Newsome, Melanie Fillios, Éloïse C. Déaux, William C.H. Parr, Mike I. Letnic, Lily M. Van Eeden, Robert G Appleby, Corey J.A. Bradshaw, Peter Savolainen, Euan G. Ritchie, Dale G Nimmo, Clare Archer-Lean, Aaron C. Greenville, Christopher R. Dickman, Lyn Watson, Katherine E Moseby, Tim S. DohertyArian D. Wallach, Damian S. Morrant, Mathew S. Crowther

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-197
Number of pages25
JournalZootaxa
Volume4564
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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