Poster presentation 12th International Mammalogical Congress

Roles for the dingo in Australian food webs reviewed: Where do they fit? (#751)

Huw Nolan 1 , Peter J S Fleming 1 2 , Guy Ballard 1 3 , Stephen M Jackson 2 4 , Paul Meek 1 5
  1. University of New England, Armidale, New South Wales, Australia
  2. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Orange, New South Wales, Australia
  3. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Armidale, New South Wales, Australia
  4. University of New South Wales , Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
  5. NSW Department of Primary Industries, Coffs Harbour, New South Wales, Australia

The dingo is the largest of Australia’s non-human, mammalian predators, often considered to be an apex predator, if only by default. However, the ecological roles of dingoes remain controversial and sometimes differing arguments are exacerbated by comparisons to the enigmatic grey wolf or colored by emotional considerations. In the minds of many it functions as an apex predator, regulating systems as a top-down driver; for others the dingo’s roles are unclear. We hypothesized that because, the dingo is medium-sized in relation to other canids, it may have evolved with similar ecological roles to other medium-sized canids. We reviewed the literature and compared the occurrence, diet, behavioral ecology and presumed functions that similar sized canids play in food webs. We conclude that direct comparisons to the grey wolf are not always appropriate. Rather, the dingo’s ecology is more in line with other medium-sized canids like jackals and coyotes. The dingo’s ecology as a mesopredator is likely facilitating its success in Australia. Similar to characteristics of other medium-sized mesopredators, the dingo shows flexibility in social structure and habitat as well as a generalist and opportunistic diet. These characteristics have allowed the dingo to adapt and thrive in an anthropogenic landscape. There is sufficient doubt about the dingo’s role as an apex predator and top-down driver to warrant more research into its true ecological roles. This should lead to better conservation and management strategies.