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Desert dingo from down-under

The dingo is Australia’s wild canid and is the continent’s iconic top-order predator. Dingoes arrived in Australia approximately 5,000 years ago and since then have become an integral part of the Australian ecosystem and culture (1). Aboriginal Australians shared a close relationship with dingoes and frequently featured them in their dreamtime stories and cave paintings (2). Today, many pure dingoes live in the wild, independent of human interference. Others live in symbiosis with native Aboriginal Australians as camp dogs.

Dingoes are distributed across most of Australia – from snow-covered alps to open barren deserts, from grasslands to the lush rainforests. Eye-catching but like many predators can be dangerous. They are generalist predators and commonly hunt rabbits, feral pigs, rodents, lizards, and even kangaroos and thus are essential to maintain ecological balance (3). Dingoes have been known on occasion to hunt farm animals, making them unpopular with some farmers. They are known to breed with domestic dogs and produce hybrids (4).

Sandy - the desert dingo; Photo: Barry Eggleton.

Dingoes inhabit a wide range of environments and climatic zones spanning the entirety of Australia. Based on their habitat they have been reported to differ in their morphology, physical appearance, body stature and several skeletal measurements (5). These differences lead to the inference that there may be three ecotypes or subspecies of dingo - Alpine, Desert and Tropical (6). However growing pile of evidence indicate the presence of only two subgroupings- Alpine and Desert.

Desert dingoes inhabiting the central Australian desert are usually smaller than Alpine dingoes. Here we release a chromosome-length genome assembly of the wild-born Desert dingo – Sandy (Version 2). Sandy was found as three-week old pup in the central Australian desert in 2014. Based on genetic testing, Sandy is identified as a pure Desert dingo. Version 1 of the assembly was enabled by winning the PacBio 2017 “World’s most interesting genome” competition. Thank you to Pure Dingo for providing the sample for this assembly. The genome will provide a better understanding of the genes that influence the transition from wild animal to domestic animal.

This assembly has a contig N50 = 40,716,615bp and scaffold N50 = 64,250,934bp, and is now available on NCBI as ASM325472v2. See the interactive Hi-C contact for the final assembly below!

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