Dingo - Ecological Impact of The Dingo After Its Arrival in Mainland Australia

Ecological Impact of The Dingo After Its Arrival in Mainland Australia

See also: Extinction of the thylacine in mainland Australia

The dingo is suspected to have caused the extinction of the thylacine, the Tasmanian devil, and the Tasmanian Native-hen from mainland Australia, since a correlation in space and time is found between the arrival of the dingo and the extinctions of these species. However, dingoes do not seem to have had the same ecological impact the red fox had in later times. This might be connected to the dingo's way of hunting and the size of their favoured prey, as well as the low number of dingoes in the time before European colonisation.

The assumption that dingoes and thylacines may have been competitors for the same prey stems from the external similarities of the two species; the thylacine had a stronger and more efficient bite, but was probably dependent on relatively small prey, while the dingo's stronger skull and neck would have allowed it to bring down bigger prey. The dingo was probably a superior hunter, as it hunted cooperatively in packs and could better defend resources, while the thylacine was probably more solitary. Also, wild dingo populations might have had demographic support from conspecifics living with humans and may have introduced new diseases that affected the thylacine more severely. The extinction of the thylacine on the continent around 2000 years ago has also been linked with changes in climate and land use of the Aborigines. It is plausible to name the dingo as the cause of the extinction, but significant morphological differences between the two are found, which suggest the ecological overlapping of both species might be exaggerated; the dingo has the dentition of a generalist, while the thylacine had the dentition of a specialist carnivore without any signs of consumption of carrion or bones. It is also argued that the thylacine was a flexible predator that should have withstood the competition by the dingo, but was instead wiped out due to human persecution.

This theory also has problems with explaining how the Tasmanian devil and the dingo coexisted on the same continent until about 430 years ago, when the dingo supposedly caused the Tasmanian devil's demise. The group dynamics of dingoes should have successfully kept devils away from carrion, and since dingoes are able to break bones, little would have been left for the devils to scavenge. Additionally, devils are successful hunters of small to medium-sized prey, so there should have been an overlapping of the species in this area, too. Furthermore, the arguments that the dingo caused the extinction of the thylacine, the devil and the hen are in direct conflict with each other. If the dingo were really so similar to the thylacine and the Tasmanian devil in its ecological role and suppressed both, the hen coexisting with both for such an extended time is strange. Although this is a possible result of the dingo's introduction, critics regard the evidence for this as insubstantial.

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