Dingoes arrived in Australia earlier than previously thought; through mainland Southeast Asia

A study published earlier this month in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B suggests an earlier arrival of the dingo to Australia, through a mainland Southeast Asia route instead of island Southeast Asia.

Om nom nom
photo credit: Tom Purves

Dingoes originated in China 18,000 years ago [Link no longer active]
Australian Geographic, 13 September 2011

Mitochondrial DNA data indicate an introduction through Mainland Southeast Asia for Australian dingoes and Polynesian domestic dogs
Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 07 September 2011

Paper abstract:

In the late stages of the global dispersal of dogs, dingoes appear in the Australian archaeological record 3500 years BP, and dogs were one of three domesticates brought with the colonization of Polynesia, but the introduction routes to this region remain unknown. This also relates to questions about human history, such as to what extent the Polynesian culture was introduced with the Austronesian expansion from Taiwan or adopted en route, and whether pre-Neolithic Australia was culturally influenced by the surrounding Neolithic world. We investigate these questions by mapping the distribution of the mtDNA founder haplotypes for dingoes (A29) and ancient Polynesian dogs (Arc1 and Arc2) in samples across Southern East Asia (n = 424) and Island Southeast Asia (n = 219). All three haplotypes were found in South China, Mainland Southeast Asia and Indonesia but absent in Taiwan and the Philippines, and the mtDNA diversity among dingoes indicates an introduction to Australia 4600–18 300 years BP. These results suggest that Australian dingoes and Polynesian dogs originate from dogs introduced to Indonesia via Mainland Southeast Asia before the Neolithic, and not from Taiwan together with the Austronesian expansion. This underscores the complex origins of Polynesian culture and the isolation from Neolithic influence of the pre-Neolithic Australian culture.

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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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