Don’t Blame The Dingo, People Are In The Frame

The extinction of the Tasmanian tiger and devil on mainland Australia is best explained not by the arrival of the dingo but by human population growth and climate change, according to an Australian expert.

“The dingo has grown accustomed to bad press,” says Professor Richard G. Roberts at the University of Wollongong.

“Dingoes first set paw in Australia a few millennia ago, possibly in association with the spread of Austronesians into the Pacific.

“They have since been blamed for snatching babies, killing sheep, and forcing the marsupial thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger) and the related (Tasmanian) devil into extinction on the Australian mainland.”

However, according to ecological modelling, it’s more likely a human population explosion pushed the thylacine to extinction.

Dingoes didn’t reach the island of Tasmania. The survival there of the thylacine, dubbed the Tasmanian tiger because of its striped back, until 1936 is generally attributed to the absence of competition and dingoes.

However, ecological models now show that the dingo did not play a key role in the extinction of these species on the mainland.

Instead, the modelling points the finger at humans perhaps assisted by increasing aridity.

Professor Roberts says: “The pivotal role played by humans in this recent extinction event, superimposed on a background of climate change, echoes the earlier extinction of the Australian megafauna and highlights the repeated impacts of hunter-gatherers on Australian ecosystems over the last 50,000 years.

Professor Roberts defended the dingo today in an article in SCIENCE under the headline, A Pardon For The Dingo.

“Vindication of the dingo … puts people, and perhaps climate change, squarely in the frame,” he says.

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