A team of scientists in Australia has uncovered new evidence that suggests dingoes (Canis familiaris dingo) arrived on the continent around 3,500 years ago, more recently than previously thought.
The timing of the arrival of dingoes has been the subject of major debate over the years, with estimates ranging from 5,000-4,000 years ago based on archaeological deposit dates to as much as 18,000 years ago based on DNA age estimates.
Now direct radiocarbon dates on the oldest dingo bones ever found have allowed researchers to paint a clearer picture of when the species first inhabited Australia.
“The dingo is the only placental land mammal aside from rats, mice and bats to have made it over water to reach Australia prior to European arrival and their arrival provides the only evidence of external visits by people to mainland Australia after first Indigenous settlement 65,000 years ago,” said study lead author Professor Jane Balme, from the University of Western Australia.
“Because Australia is separated from Southeast Asia by water, with the minimal distance between the two more than 90 km, it is extremely unlikely that dingoes arrived in Australia independently of humans.”
The dingo bones, which are between 3,348 and 3,081 years old, came from Madura Cave on the Nullarbor Plain on the southern point of Western Australia.
“Before now most researchers believed dingoes arrived in Australia sometime between 4,000 and 8,000 years ago or possibly even earlier. The new evidence changes this,” said Australian National University’s Professor Sue O’Connor, co-author on the study.
“Given the distance of the Nullabor from northern Australia where it is thought dingoes were first introduced, we are suggesting they were introduced about 3,500 years ago,” Professor O’Connor said.
“Their spread would have been rapid because it would have been aided by people, as they were useful animals or pets they were likely transferred between groups.”
“This may have been facilitated by their strong relationship with humans and may have contributed to the extinction of a number of species including the Tasmanian devil and the Tasmanian tiger on mainland Australia because of the increased hunting pressure,” Professor Balme said.
“The next step would be to examine bone fossils from archaeological and paleontological sites to identify how dingoes may have changed people’s subsistence activities and the impact that dingoes have had on the Australian environment.”
“We have made a start on this by dating of dingo bones from the Nullarbor but analysis of dingo bones from other parts of Australia will help test our hypothesis of their rapid rate of spread.”
The study was published in the July 19 issue of the journal Scientific Reports.
Jane Balme et al. 2018. New dates on dingo bones from Madura Cave provide oldest firm evidence for arrival of the species in Australia. Scientific Reports 8, article number: 9933; doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-28324-x
Source link: https://www.sci.news/archaeology/dingo-arrival-australia-06243.html