Australian Journal of Zoology Australian Journal of Zoology Society
Evolutionary, molecular and comparative zoology

The Identity of the Dingo I. Morphological Discriminants of Dingo and Dog Skulls.

AE Newsome, LK Corbett and SM Carpenter

Australian Journal of Zoology 28(4) 615 - 625
Published: 1980


Earlier studies have found no differences in thirty blood enzymes in dingoes and domestic dogs. Canonical analysis on skull characters of 50 dingoes and 43 domestic dogs about the same size as dingoes achieved clear separation on as few as six characters. The variability in the sample of domestic dogs was considerable, and so 100 measurements were taken on adult skulls only. A series of analyses were used to reduce the number of characters to 70, 30 and 15, and ultimately to a convenient subset of six sufficient to discriminate between taxa and sexes together. These measurements were: alveolar distance along lower premolars, maxillary width, bulla volume, crown width of upper carnassial tooth, basal length of upper canine and width of nasal bones. All these characters have functions related to predation. Sexual dimorphism was marked in dingoes but not in the domestic dogs. Comparisons with other similar studies of greater array of canids indicate the closeness of dingoes to our selection of domestic dogs and the great variability in the latter; also that the choice of skull characters probably influences whether dingoes are placed nearer coyotes or wolves taxonomically. The selection of domestic dogs may influence the estimated taxonomic position.

© CSIRO 1980

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