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The Australian alpine canine

The dingo is the Australian canine, which is thought to be introduced to Australia by seafarers from Asia around 5000 year ago (1). Since then the dingo has become Australia’s apex predator on land and has integrated into local ecosystem. By controlling populations of native and introduced herbivores including introduced mesopredators such as red foxes and cats, dingoes are fundamental for maintaining balance in the ecosystem. Additionally, by controlling populations of herbivores, dingoes benefit plant communities and other smaller native prey such as small marsupials and rodents (2).

Cooinda the Alpine dingo; Photo: Bargo Dingo Sanctuary.

The dingo is a medium-sized canine, with males being slightly larger than females. The dingo breeds once a year and usually produces a litter of four to six pups. The dingo may have multiple coat colours: ginger with white feet, darker tan to black, white, and golden yellow. Interestingly, like wolves, dingoes howl to communicate. The extensive hybridisation with domestic dogs has raised concerns over the persistence of pure dingoes in the wild.

Morphological and genetic studies have indicated a subgrouping in dingoes – Desert, Alpine and Tropical, primarily based on their geographical distribution. Skull shape differ between dingoes from different climatic zones, where the skulls of dingoes from the southeastern alpine regions of Australia are wider than the skulls of dingoes from the northwestern desert parts of Australia (3). Genetic studies however have supported the presence of only two lineages: Desert and Alpine (4). Alpine dingoes are found in the high elevation Australian alps and grow a thicker fur during late autumn. Alpine dingoes are typically larger than desert dingoes (5).

Here we release a chromosome-length genome assembly of the Alpine dingo - Cooinda. Cooinda is a pure dingo and was raised in the Bargo dingo sanctuary. Unfortunately, she has now passed, but it is expected she will go on display at the Australia Museum, Sydney as the type representative of the Alpine dingo. This assembly has a contig N50 = 23,108,747bp and scaffold N50 = 64,752,584bp. See Dudchenko et al., 2018 for details on the procedure. Thank you to Bargo Dingo Sanctuary for providing the sample for this assembly.

The assembly is now available on NCBI as UNSW_AlpineDingo_1.0:

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