According to retired anthropologist Pat Shipman from Penn State University, dingoes and their closely related New Guinea singing dogs, are not dogs. They are not wolves either, but fall into their own class.
Domestic dogs arrived in Australia in 1788 with the first ships of convicts. The dingoes were already there for at least 4000 or more years prior to that. Genetically and behaviorally, they are more like wolves with their inability to digest starches and their inability to bond with humans. Dogs on the other hand have no difficulty digesting starches and do bond with people.
Dingoes can survive in the Australian outback where domestic dogs that are feral have a difficult time or cannot survive.
What makes it difficult to separate the lines between wolves, dogs and dingoes is that genetically they can hybridize and have fertile offspring unlike horses and donkeys who typically produce infertile mules.
Shipman feels that a dingo is a wolf on its way to becoming a dog but never made it.
It has long been thought that wolves hunting methods only involve running down large prey until they are too exhausted to fight. However, new research has shown that wolves have developed a stalk and ambush method of hunting in the summer, designed specifically to catch beavers.
Beavers have poor eyesight but a keen sense of smell. Wolves have learned to wait downwind from where the beaver comes out of the water to go on land.
Researchers found that this hunting method is not limited to a few wolves, but has spanned several years through multiple packs over the Northern Hemisphere where wolves and beaver co-exist.
The study shows that wolves are flexible in their hunting methods and can change to the method that works at that time.
Author Note: This also demonstrates the wolf’s intelligence and ability to communicate the method to other members of the pack.
According to Thomas Newsome of Deakin University and the University of Sydney in Australia, and co-author Aaron Wirsing, an associate professor at the University of Washington’s School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, the rise of secondary predators such as coyotes, jackals and foxes is in large part due to the limits placed on the areas that wolves and dingoes range. He found this to be true in Australia and Europe as well as the United States.
Coyotes and foxes are very adaptable and can be found in suburban settings as well as more open areas. Their population has increased because their main predator, the wolf and dingo, does not have the ability to range far enough to keep them under control. Wolves need a large area to roam and even though re-location has increased their numbers in some areas, their ability to range is fragmented.
The team plans to study the impact that localization has on the environments where the main predators are the big cats such as jaguars, leopards, lions and tigers.
A study conducted by Vladimire Dinets, UT Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Benjamin Eligulashvili, an Israel-based zoologist, seems to imply that these two enemies may have joined together for survival in the harsh Israeli desert.
Striped Hyenas were observed in the middle of grey wolf packs as they traveled together through a maze of canyons in the southern part of the Negev desert.
Why would they do this? The theory is that the hyenas have a better sense of smell and the ability to locate carrion miles away. They can also dig and crack bones better than wolves. The wolves are more agile and can bring down large game. Together they both have a greater chance of survival.
What is not known is if this is a common occurrence that has not been observed before, or an unusual event.
What is nice about their unity, as Dinets commented, it is an example for humans about overcoming differences and learning to get along.
It is always refreshing to learn more about the behavior of wild animals and studies like this make you wonder how much more there is to learn.