New paper: Taxonomic status of the Australian dingo: the case for Canis dingo Meyer, 1793

Published in: Zootaxa


The taxonomic status and systematic nomenclature of the Australian dingo remain contentious, resulting in decades of inconsistent applications in the scientific literature and in policy. Prompted by a recent publication calling for dingoes to be considered taxonomically as domestic dogs (Jackson et al. 2017, Zootaxa 4317, 201-224), we review the issues of the taxonomy applied to canids, and summarise the main differences between

The dingo is one of Australia’s top-predators. Photo by Bobby Tamayo.

dingoes and other canids. We conclude that (1) the Australian dingo is a geographically isolated (allopatric) species from all other Canis, and is genetically, phenotypically,
ecologically, and behaviourally distinct; and (2) the dingo appears largely devoid of many of the signs of domestication, including surviving largely as a wild animal in Australia for millennia. The case of defining dingo taxonomy provides a quintessential example of the disagreements between species concepts (e.g., biological, phylogenetic, ecological,
morphological). Applying the biological species concept sensu stricto to the dingo as suggested by Jackson et al. (2017) and consistently across the Canidae would lead to an aggregation of all Canis populations, implying for example that dogs and wolves are the same species. Such an aggregation would have substantial implications for taxonomic clarity, biological research, and wildlife conservation. Any changes to the current nomen of the dingo (currently Canis dingo Meyer, 1793), must therefore offer a strong, evidence-based argument in favour of it being recognised as a subspecies of Canis lupus Linnaeus, 1758, or as Canis familiaris Linnaeus, 1758, and a successful application to the  International Commission for Zoological Nomenclature – neither of which can be adequately supported. Although there are many species concepts, the sum of the evidence presented in this paper affirms the classification of the dingo as a distinct taxon, namely
Canis dingo.


Smith B.P, Cairns K.M, Crowther M.S, Adams J.W, Newsome T.M, Fillios M, Deaux E.C., Parr W.C.H, Letnic M., van Eeden L.M., Appleby R.G., Bradshaw C.J.A, Savolainen P., Ritchie E.G., Nimmo D.G., Archer-Lean C., Greenville A.C., Dickman C.R., Watson L., Moseby K.E., Doherty T.S., Wallach A.D. & Morrant D.S. (2019). Taxonomic status and nomenclature of Australia’s native canid: the case to retain Canis dingo (Meyer 1793). Zootaxa, 4564: 173-197.

Also see the response:

Jackson S. M., Fleming P. J. S., Eldridge M. D. B., Ingleby S., Flannery T. I. M., Johnson R. N., Cooper S. J. B. & Mitchell K. J. (2019) The Dogma of Dingoes—Taxonomic status of the dingo: A reply to Smith et al. Zootaxa 4564.



The dingo is a true-blue, native Australian species. The Conversation, March 2019.

Australian dingo is a unique Australian species in its own right. Science Daily, March 2019.

Australian researchers say dingo is not a dog, but own species. Rappler Philippines, March 2019.

Australian researchers say dingo is not a dog, but own species. New Straits Times Malaysia, March 2019.

Researchers want dingoes ‘protected’. Katherine Times, March 2019.

Australian researchers say dingo is not a dog, but its own species. GMA NEWS, March 2019.

Dingoes are a ‘fair dinkum’ separate species needing better protection, researchers say. ABC NEWS, March 2019.

Give the dingo its due, the ‘Aussie wolf’ is not a dog: Scientists. Brisbane Times, March 2019.

Dingoes aren’t dogs but native Aussies. Keep it Clever, March 2019.


About Aaron Greenville

I'm an Ecologist investigating how ecosystems respond to climate change and the introduction of exotic species.
This entry was posted in Conservation, Ecology, Publications and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to New paper: Taxonomic status of the Australian dingo: the case for Canis dingo Meyer, 1793

  1. Donna Harvey says:

    Awesome blog you haave here

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