Pinpointing Where the Dingo Stands on the Canine Evolutionary Timeline

It’s hard to imagine life without dogs, and not just for avid dog lovers and pet owners! Dogs and humans have a long and intertwined history as species that worked together for mutual protection and companionship. Though it’s well-known that modern dog breeds evolved from the grey wolf, the dingo represents a unique divergence in the canine lineage.

Dingo on Fraser Island
Pinpointing Where the Dingo Stands on the Canine Evolutionary Timeline

How Humans Affected the Dog Evolution

Humans domesticated dogs 29,000 and 14,000 years ago, during the Neolithic period. Ever since then, humans have certainly had a significant impact on the evolution of dogs. What’s more, over 340 modern dog breeds have immerged in the last 200 years, as a direct result of selective breeding.

Grey Wolf
Pinpointing Where the Dingo Stands on the Canine Evolutionary Timeline

A closer look at the genome of modern dog breeds shows how living with humans has affected them. For example, several modern species have multiple duplicates of the gene that helps them digest starch, likely because humans fed them starch-rich foods like rice. The wolf and the dingo only have one copy of this gene.

Why the Dingo Is Unique

The dingo is unique from other dogs because they were geographically isolated for thousands of years. The research recently published in Science Advances was a collaboration between 25 researchers. It pinpoints the evolution of dingoes as an early canine offshoot that appeared in Australia 5,000 to 8,000 years ago. The research was done using modern gene sequencing technology using samples from a pure desert dingo puppy, a German Shepheard, basenji, genomes of the Greenland wolf, and other canine representatives.

Dingo puppies
Pinpointing Where the Dingo Stands on the Canine Evolutionary Timeline

The Potential for Future Studies

The study revealed that the dingo is an early offshoot of the modern dog and how distinct environmental and demographic conditions shaped this specie’s genome. Future research will address whether dingoes were ever domesticated and the possible impact of this species crossbreeding with other dogs. Better insight into this species’ role in the ecosystem could aid future preservation efforts. Researching the genome of dingoes might help find targeted treatment options to improve the health and vitality of other dog breeds.

Giant, Invasive Spiders Have Now Spread All Over Georgia

The giant spiders that invaded North Georgia in 2014 have been terrifying residents with their thick 10-feet webs. Their dense, wheel-like webs can be spotted on power lines, porches, mailboxes, and vegetable patches across 25 counties in the state. The invasive spiders are of the species Trichonephila clavata, native to East Asia, and are also known as Joro spiders.

The Bright-Yellow Joro Spiders Likely Arrived On a Shipping Container

The Bright-Yellow Joro Spider or Trichonephila clavata The first of the 3-inch spiders were spotted in 2014, some 80 miles away from Atlanta. According to its discoverer, Rick Hoebeke, it likely hitchhiked on a shipping container. Hoebeke is also the collections manager at the Georgia Museum of Natural History. Since it was first discovered on American soil, the spiders have expanded their population and range steadily throughout the state, and residents and researchers were surprised to witness a great number of spiders this year. According to entomologist Will Hudson, his porch was covered by a blanket of webs and more than 300 spiders.

The Joro Spiders Are Common to China, Japan, Taiwan, and Korea and Are Known for Spinning Large Webs

While last year people would notice dozens of spiders, this year they get to deal with hundreds, and the webs they spin could make any place look spookier. Common to Taiwan, China, Japan, and Korea, the Joro spiders are part of a group known as orb weavers. This is because their webs are highly circular and symmetrical. While the spiders are venomous, they only use their venom to immobilize their prey before snaring it in their webs. The venom cannot harm humans, dogs, or cats who are not allergic to it. At the worst, a Joro spider could nip when threatened, but its bite is quite weak and would rarely break through the skin.

A web made by the Joro spiders

Most of Georgia’s Joro spiders are expected to die off by the end of November, but this will not be the last people will see of them. Female Joros lay their egg sacs with over 400 babies, that when hatched, emerge during the spring and ride the wind to float across enormous distances. Experts have stated that the arachnids would likely spread farther into other states where the climate is similar.

Invasive species often destabilize the ecosystems they enter, but that is not always the case. Some scientists believe that this particular spider could bring unexpected benefits. According to entomologist Nancy Hinkle, Joro spiders kill off biting flies, mosquitoes, and invasive brown marmorated stink bugs, which had no natural predators until now and are known to damage crops.