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New Guinea Singing Dog - Canis lupus dingo var.
DinosaurMichael Wrote:New Guinea Singing Dog - Canis lupus dingo var.

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Scientific Classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Carnivora
Family: Canidae
Genus: Canis
Species: C. lupus
Subspecies: C. l. dingo

The New Guinea singing dog (Canis lupus dingo) is a wild dog. It was once found throughout the island of New Guinea. The New Guinea Singing Dog is named for its unique vocalization. Little is known about New Guinea singing dogs in their native habitat and there are only two confirmed photographs of wild sightings. Captive-bred New Guinea Singing Dogs serve as companion dogs.

The New Guinea Singing Dog, also known as Hallstrom’s dog, is named for its distinctive and melodious howl, which is characterized by a sharp increase in pitch at the start and very high frequencies at the end.

In 1897, Charles Walter De Vis collected the first specimen from Mount Scratchley at about 2,400m elevation and described it. In 1956, Albert Speer and J.P. Sinclair obtained a pair of singing dogs in the Lavani Valley and situated in Southern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea. The dogs were sent to Sir Edward Hallstrom who had set up a native animal study center in Nondugi, and then on to the Taronga Zoo in Sydney, Australia. In 1958, Ellis Troughton examined the two singer specimens from the Taronga Zoo in Sydney. Subsequently, the New Guinea singing dog was classified as a distinct species and was named Canis hallstromi (in honor of Sir Edward Hallstrom).

Physical description
Compared to other species in its genus, the New Guinea singing dog is described as relatively short-legged and broad-headed. These dogs have an average shoulder height of 31–46 centimetres (12–18 in) and weigh 9–14 kilograms (20–31 lb). They do not have rear dewclaws.

The limbs and spine of singers are very flexible, and they can spread their legs sideways to 90°, comparable to the Norwegian Lundehund. They can also rotate their front and hind paws more than domestic dogs, which enables them to climb trees with thick bark or branches that can be reached from the ground; however their climbing skills do not reach the same level as those of the Gray Fox.

The eyes, which are highly reflective, are almond-shaped and are angled upwards from the inner to outer corners with dark eye rims. Eye color ranges from dark amber to dark-brown. Their eyes exhibit a bright green glow when lights are shone in at them in low light conditions. Researchers believe there are two reasons for the bright reflective glow; not only do the pupils open wider and allow in more light than in other dog varieties, there is also a higher concentration of cells in the tapetum. These two features would allow singing dogs to see more clearly in low light.

New Guinea singing dogs have erect, pointed, fur-lined ears. As with other wild dogs, the ears 'perk', or lay forward, which is suspected to be an important survival features for the species. The ears can be rotated like a directional receiver to pick up faint sounds. Singer tails should be bushy, long enough to reach the hock, free of kinks, and have a white tip.

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Status and distribution
As of 2015, since New Guinea singing dogs are, in taxonomic candidates, subspecies or varietals and not at the species level, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) treats of them only as an subset of dingoes, Canis lupus ssp. dingo, so their evident rarity is obscured by dingoes as a whole being "previously. . .listed as Lower Risk/least concern" though " improved information since then has resulted in the taxon being reassessed as Vulnerable." IUCN does note that "Dingo's were formerly widespread throughout the world (Corbett 1995) and although populations of wild dogs remain abundant in Australia and other countries, the proportion of pure dingoes is declining through hybridization with domestic dogs." However, "in New Guinea, the Department of Environment and Conservation has indicated that measures will be initiated to protect New Guinea singing dogs (I.L. Brisbin pers. comm.)."

Reports from local sources in Papua New Guinea from the 1970s and the mid-1990s indicate that singer-like wild dogs found in New Guinea, whether they were pure singers or hybrids, fed on small to middle-sized marsupials, rodents, birds and fruits. Robert Bino stated that they their prey consisted of cuscuses, wallabies, Dwarf Cassowaries and other birds. Singers in captivity do not require a specialized diet but they seem to thrive on lean raw meat diets based on poultry, beef, elk, deer, or bison.

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Relationship with humans
In highland areas, the dogs occasionally kept company with native humans, but more often they lived independently without masters. In the lowland villages, they were more apt to take up residence with the many native villagers who inhabited the area.

The onset of European culture with their domesticated dogs spelled the beginning of the end for pure New Guinea singing dogs in the lowlands. "Singing Dogs are very gentle and friendly with people, though inclined to be a bit shy with strangers at first," wrote New York owner Phillip Persky. "They are not at all aggressive with people" Sharon McKenzie said. "I've never heard of a case of a Singing Dog biting anyone." "They are notorious escape artists," Mr. Persky reported, "and can climb and jump with cat-like agility, so enclosures have to be secure." They are great diggers and can climb fences as easily as a squirrel. They can get through a space you would not have thought a snake could get through," Sharon laughed. "This is the only breed I know of in which bitches are dominant", Sharon observed. "Bitches really call the shots."

According to reports from the late 1950s and mid-1970s, wild dogs believed to be singers were shy and avoided contact with humans. It was reported in the mid-1970s that the Kalam in the highlands of Papua caught young singers and raised them as hunting aids but did not breed them. Some of these dogs probably stayed with the Kalam and reproduced. The Eipo tribe kept and bred wild dogs as playmates for their children. Although the majority of the highland tribes never used village dogs as a food source, it is known that even today they attempt to catch, kill and eat wild dogs. Some local myths mention these dogs as bringers of fire and speech or as the spirits of the deceased. Dog-findings in archaeological sites of New Guinea are rare, mostly consisting of teeth (used as ornaments) and trophy-skulls. One grave has been discovered. The earliest singer remains was a tooth found in the lowlands. It was estimated to be about 5,500 years old. Findings from the highlands were thought to be of similar age, on a stratigraphical basis, but as of 2001 had not been dated. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the inhabitants of the highlands started to keep chickens, and singers had a penchant for poultry. To add to the problem, natives kept other domestic dogs. The crossbred dogs were generally larger in size, as well as less of a challenge to train, so they tended to be of more value than singing dogs. One might conclude that the relationship between the contemporary New Guineans and their dogs will give information about how they treated the singers, but modern "village dogs" are not genetically representative of pure New Guinea singing dogs.

Conservation and preservation
In the past, the New Guinea singing dog was considered "unworthy" of scientific study, as it was regarded as an insignificant variety of feral domestic dog. However, due to its potential value as a resource for the determination of the process of canid evolution and domestication, particularly in relation to the dingo, as well as several of its unique genetic, behavioral, ecological, reproductive and morphological characteristics, limited research has been undertaken. The New Guinea Department of Environment and Conservation has announced protection measures.

Hybridization is one of the most serious threats facing the New Guinea dingo. NGD are handicapped, as are many canids such as the Australian dingo, by their susceptibility to being bred by canines other than those of their own kind. This vulnerability has and is still causing a "watering down " of dingo genes needed to maintain purity.

There are two organizations that exist for the sole purpose of conserving and preserving New Guinea singing dogs. The organizations, New Guinea Singing Dog Conservation Society founded in 1997 and New Guinea Singing Dog International, a preservation, captive breed, adoption and pet education group. Both are based in the United States.

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Dingo relative rediscovered in remote highlands of New Guinea

Pacific Beat By Kerri Worthington
Updated about 3 hours ago

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PHOTO: Lady Foot, a rare highland wild dog discovered in the mountains of Papua New Guinea. (New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation)

Scientists have confirmed the existence of an ancient dog species in one of the world's most remote places — the mountains of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia's Papua provinces.

Key points:
  • The discovery is the first sighting of the dogs in more than 40 years

  • They are among the oldest and most primitive canines in the world

  • Analysis of the species could help explain dog and human co-evolution

The international team led by scientists from Indonesia's University of Papua captured evidence of the New Guinea highland wild dog during a 2016 expedition to an austere, high-altitude region near the Grasberg mine, one of the world's largest copper mines.

The discovery is the first confirmed sighting of the species in more than 40 years.

The dogs are believed likely to be the same species as the New Guinea singing dog, a wild dog that has been bred in captivity since several pairs were taken from the remote New Guinea highlands on both sides of the border in the 1950s and 1970s.

There are about 200 New Guinea singing dogs in zoos around the world, but little is known about the ancient breed famous for their unique vocalisations.

However, scientists are certain it shares ancestry with the Australian dingo.

American zoologist James McIntyre, who had been searching for the elusive dog for years, joined the team as an adviser on a leg of the research that took them to the slopes of Papua Province's highest mountain, Puncak Jaya.

Mr McIntyre led his own expedition in the 1990s to the highlands of north-western Papua New Guinea — however while his team heard chorus howling at dawn and dusk, they made no sightings.

He remained certain the elusive canid species still roamed the highlands' cloud forest terrain, several thousand metres above sea level.

"I had the opportunity to speak to many remote villagers there, and it seems like every different village has some kind of story pertaining to the highland wild dog," he said.

"The dog has been woven into the fabric of their culture and their tradition."

While there have been several sighting reports since his initial expedition, it wasn't until last year that Mr McIntyre found what he considered to be credible scientific evidence pointing not only to the existence of healthy populations, but also of the dog's curious nature.

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PHOTO: A hidden camera captures White-cheek Girl, a rare highland wild dog. (New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation)

"We were travelling up this beautiful valley and it consists of three terraced lakes that eventually wind up at two active glaciers.

"I was broadcasting audio howls of North American coyotes — a male and female coyote, a female coyote in distress, and coyote puppies in distress," he said.

Mr McIntyre said while the sounds were not species specific, any kind of different noise or howl in another animal's territory was likely to evoke curiosity.

He even took off his boots at one stage of the journey and left behind bare footprints.

On his return, Mr McIntyre found fresh dog pawprints next to his own footprint.

"So in fact, I didn't find those dogs, they found me," he said.
The researchers set photo traps, lacing the ground with scents they hoped would lure the dogs, and waited.

"It wasn't until the very last day, after the weather had cleared for a while, that I got any photos whatsoever," Mr McIntyre said.

"I don't mind saying out loud that I squealed when I finally saw documentary proof of these animals."

A window into the history of Australia's dingoes

The highland wild dog is seen as a "pristine" canid — an example of how dogs were at the time they began being domesticated.

Mr McIntyre said the discovery of the ancient dog in such a remote location was enormously important to the understanding of dog and human co-evolution.

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PHOTO: Puppies Two Socks, Lil Red and Markie sniff a scent lure near a camera trap. (Supplied: New Guinea Highland Wild Dog Foundation)

"So this can tell us a lot about the history and the pre-history of Papua New Guinea and just the migrations of the people and the dogs and how they got to where they are today," he said.

Mr McIntyre said a full investigation of the dogs' DNA would prove the highland wild dog, the New Guinea singing dog and the dingo are "the only animals on the planet that are even remotely related to each other".

"Years ago, Australia and New Guinea were attached by a land bridge when the oceans were much shallower than they are now, and it was probably one species of dog that lived in both countries.

"When the water rose and the land bridge was eliminated, the dogs that were isolated on the island of Australia adapted and evolved [into] dingoes," he said.
"And the dogs that were isolated on the island of New Guinea seemed to retreat to the highlands and evolved and adapted to what they are today."

Tensions in Papua province a barrier to research

Scientists associated with the newly-formed non-profit New Guinea Highlands Wild Dogs Foundation, of which Mr McIntyre is president, plan to return to the same area in July this year to trap the dogs and give them a thorough examination.

Although villagers across the New Guinea Highlands reported signs of the dog, the proximity of the Grasberg mine to the 2016 discovery was considered a boon for researchers.

Mr McIntyre said scientists faced extensive barriers getting to the Indonesian side of New Guinea island, which is subject to a simmering insurgency by Indigenous West Papuans seeking independence.

"I had been trying to get into Papua province for three-and-a-half years and there are many political hoops that we have to go through in order to get in there, and it seems as though at times they are reluctant to bring foreign researchers in there," he said.

The mountainous island of New Guinea is one of the most richly biodiverse places on earth.

He said the mine operators had helped facilitate the recent expedition, and had indicated they would do so again.

Mr McIntyre said it was crucial for the highland wild dog team also to include local scientists to be involved in the preservation of their national heritage.

"We certainly couldn't do it —and we wouldn't do it either — without the association of a Papuan University," he said.
"I made sure, and I will make sure in the future, that any of the students and any of the professors that we have be Papuan." 
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