Ancient genomes reveal over two thousand years of dingo population structure

Souilmi, Y., Wasef, S., Williams, M.P., Conroy, G., Bar, I., Bover, P., Dann, J., Heiniger, H., Llamas, B., Ogbourne, S., Archer, M., Ballard, J.W.O., Reed, E., Tobler, R., Koungoulos, L., Walshe, K., Wright, J.L., Balme, J., O’Connor, S., Cooper, A., Mitchell, K.J. 2024. Ancient genomes reveal over two thousand years of dingo population structure. Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of U.S.A., 121: e2407584121

Dingoes are culturally and ecologically important free-­living canids whose ancestors arrived in Australia over 3,000 B.P., likely transported by seafaring people. However, the early history of dingoes in Australia—including the number of founding populations and their routes of introduction—remains uncertain. This uncertainty arises partly from the complex and poorly understood relationship between modern dingoes and New Guinea singing dogs, and suspicions that post-­Colonial hybridization has introduced recent domestic dog ancestry into the genomes of many wild dingo populations. In this study, we analyzed genome-­wide data from nine ancient dingo specimens ranging in age from 400 to 2,746 y old, predating the introduction of domestic dogs to Australia by European colonists. We uncovered evidence that the continent-­wide population structure observed in modern dingo populations had already emerged several thousand years ago. We also detected excess allele sharing between New Guinea singing dogs and ancient dingoes from coastal New South Wales (NSW) compared to ancient dingoes from southern Australia, irrespective of any post-­Colonial hybrid ancestry in the genomes of modern individuals. Our results are consistent with several demographic scenarios, including a scenario where the ancestry of dingoes from the east coast of Australia results from at least two waves of migration from source populations with varying affinities to New Guinea singing dogs. We also contribute to the growing body of evidence that modern dingoes derive little genomic ancestry from post-­Colonial hybridization with other domestic dog lineages, instead descending primarily from ancient canids introduced to Sahul thousands of years ago.