AbstractsBiology & Animal Science

Order in the pack : ecology of Canis lupus dingo in the southern Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area

by Brad V. Purcell

Institution: University of Western Sydney
Degree: PhD
Year: 0
Keywords: Canis lupus dingo; dingo; ecology; behavior; control; diet; genetics; activity patterns; New South Wales; Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area
Record ID: 1055132
Full text PDF: http://handle.uws.edu.au:8081/1959.7/489944


This study describes aspects of the descriptive, functional and social ecology of dingoes Canis lupus dingo from the Southern Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, Australia. Amendments to the wild dog control order of the Rural Lands Protection act 1998 recommended that resident dingoes in this protected area be conserved in situ to maintain ecological function and to preserve wild “pure” dingo populations. Field work was based on and around two 25 kilometre transects, each within a separate site of varied rugged and forested terrain, within the core of this reserve. The aim was to investigate similar biological and ecological descriptors to those used in past studies of dingoes in Australia for comparison with this population. Objectives included morphometric measurements and colouration, genetic purity, patterns of prey consumption and changes in abundance, activity and spatial organisation to assess the functional role of dingoes in this universally significant protected area. Dingoes were trapped using padded soft jaw leg-hold traps by professional dingo trappers. Captured animals were weighed, measured, had tissue/blood samples collected for genetic tests, collared or tagged to observe patterns of movement, and released at the location of capture. Dingoes were tested for rare microsatellites found in captive dingoes and domestic dogs to estimate “purity”, and multilocus genotype data were compared within the population to determine relatedness. Patterns of prey consumption were assessed using scat analysis from dingo and fox scats sampled along each transect. Monthly variations in general patterns of dingo activity were tested using indices calculated from counting spoor on sand plots spaced approximately every kilometre on both transects. Spatial organisation was investigated using data logging global positioning system telemetry collars and analysed using minimum convex polygons and kernel contours. Twelve collars were outfitted to dingoes for 13 months and scheduled to log six to eight locations per 24 hours. Five additional collars were outfitted to dingoes for the 2007 breeding season and scheduled to log one location every ten minutes for 50-52 days. From 47 live captures, average morphometric measurements included: weight 16 ± 2.8kg; head length 234.2 ± 12.6mm; ear height 97.2 ± 5.9mm (n = 34); shoulder height 575.6 ± 29.4mm; hind foot length 183.6 ± 9.2mm (n = 17); tail length 423.3 ± 69.3mm (n = 46); and total length 1326.1 ± 88.7mm. Black and tan was the most common coat colour (38.3%) followed by sable (31.9%), tan (23.4%) and patchy (6.4%). Canonical scores to estimate “purity” ranged between 0.46 and 4.34 (n = 10) suggesting that 80% of the population was “pure” according to previously published “purity” descriptors. Alternatively, comparative analyses of microsatellites from captive dingo populations with the 47 live captures and one deceased individual sampled during field work suggested 2.1% of the population were likely “pure” dingoes, 16.7% was less than 75% dingo, 43.8% was less than…