Researchers discover a highland population of New Guinea singing dogs
These rare animals are known for their harmonic, whale-like howls
New Guinea singing dog is a rare animal best known for its , which were as a “wolf howl with overtones of whale song.”
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, only about 200 to 300 captive New Guinea singing dogs remain. They are highly inbred, as the entire captive population descended from only eight individuals. Conservation biologists the New Guinea singing dog is nearing extinction due habitat loss and and the expansion of mainland breed dogs and village dogs on the island of New Guinea.
But , the New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation and the University of Papua led an expedition that uncovered the existence of 15 highland wild dogs on the western side of the island of New Guinea. These – they have a secretive nature, tend to live at high altitudes, and were only photographed twice prior to 2016. These features suggested that the highland wild dogs are potentially a wild New Guinea singing dog population.
, researchers collected blood and skin samples from three of these highland wild dogs. Next, they carried out DNA sequencing and various genetic analyses to compare highland wild dogs to a dataset of 1,346 dogs from 161 breeds, as well as 16 captive New Guinea singing dogs and 25 wild dingoes.
The researchers found that the nuclear genome of the highland wild dog has a strong similarity (a 72 percent overlap) to the New Guinea singing dogs, and that both dogs are derived from the same lineage.
In addition, the highland wild dog has higher levels of genetic diversity, although the population and distribution of these dogs remain to be seen. This has important implications for conservation efforts, suggesting that the highland wild dogs can help invigorate and rebuild the captive New Guinea singing dog population.