The wild singing dogs of New Guinea did not become extinct 50 years ago, according to American researchers who discovered a small population of these rare animals in the mountainous region of western New Guinea. An article with the results of their research was published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
For half a century, scientists believed that the singing New Guinea dogs were extinct in the wild. It turned out they were alive. And they still emit characteristic harmonious sounds, similar to the singing of humpback whales. In appearance, the New Guinea singing dogs are very similar to the Australian dingo, only in a reduced version. Dogs differ from dingoes in behavior and morphology and also have an unusual voice.
Since the 1970s, the New Guinea Singing Dog has been considered extinct – it has not been seen in the wild since then, and only in captivity several hundred representatives of the breed have survived.
“The New Guinea Singing Dog, as we know it, is actually bred by humans today. Eight individuals were brought to the United States from the highlands of New Guinea and crossed with each other”.
Elanie Osander, Ph.D. of the American National Institutes of Health
At the same time, due to the small size of the population, the dogs lost some of the variations in their DNA, which also raised the question of the prospects for the survival of the breed.
Finding dogs that were described as very similar to New Guinea singing dogs, biologists collected samples of their blood and secretions and turned to geneticists for help. Scientists have deciphered the DNA structure of unknown dogs and compared it with the structure of the genome of New Guinea singing dogs from nurseries, as well as other members of the canine family.
The analysis showed that both breeds of New Guinea dogs are close relatives, and their ancestors belonged to the same species. Scientists can now re-establish the population of these predators by crossing nursery dogs with their wild relatives. Thanks to this, their gene pool can be cleared of traces of the DNA of their domesticated relatives, the New Guinea Singing Dogs can be protected from extinction, and the current population size of these animals can be estimated.