Ancient song-dog breed reappears in Indonesia after being suspected of being extinct for 50 years

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The New Guinea Singing Dog, known to produce harmonic sounds with its high-pitched barks and howls, was believed to have only existed in captivity – until now.

Scientists have spotted a pack of these dogs running wild in the hills of Indonesia after the animals were reportedly extinct 50 years ago.

The results were discovered following a comparison of DNA from dogs seen in the wild in 2018 with those in captivity, revealing that the New Guinea Songler is the predecessor of the Highland Wild Dogs.

Prior to this study, New Guinea Songlers were believed to be the rarest and oldest dog-like animal there is, but Highland Wild Dogs now hold the title.

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The New Guinea Singing Dog, known to produce harmonic sounds with its high-pitched barks and howls, was believed to have only existed in captivity – until now. Scientists have spotted a pack of these dogs running around the wild in the hills of Indonesia after the animals were reportedly extinct 50 years ago

The New Guinea Singing Dog (NGSD) was first studied in 1897 and has become known for its unique and characteristic vocalization which experts describe as “wolf howl with accents of whale song”.

There are no more than 300 who currently live in conversation centers and have not been in the wild since the 1970s, who have lost much of their genetic makeup due to extensive inbreeding.

Elaine Ostrander, Ph.D., NIH researcher emeritus and lead author of the article, said, “The New Guinea song dog we know today is a breed that was essentially created by humans.

“Eight were brought to the United States from the highlands of New Guinea and bred to create this group.

The results were discovered following a comparison of DNA from dogs seen in the wild in 2018 with those in captivity, revealing that the New Guinea Singing Dog (pictured) is the predecessor of the Highland Wild Dogs

In 2016, a team from the University of Papua visited Puncak Jaya, a mountain peak in Papua, Indonesia, where they spotted 15 Highland Wild Dogs (pictured) near the largest gold mine in world that looked a lot like the NGSD

For years, researchers have speculated that NGSD had been wiped out in the wild due to habitat loss and extensive breeding as pets.

However, in 2016, a team from the University of Papua visited Puncak Jaya, a mountain peak in Papua, Indonesia, where they spotted 15 Highland Wild Dogs near the world’s largest gold mine. which looked a lot like the NGSD.

The team captured over 140 photographs of the wild dogs, ranging in color from cream, ginger and roan to black with white markings and a darker or black roan with tricolor patterns.

The New Guinea Singing Dog (pictured) was first studied in 1897 and has become known for its unique and characteristic vocalization

In addition, camera traps revealed the presence of adults of both sexes, gravid females and pups approximately three to five months old.

The team returned in 2018 to collect blood samples from three of the dogs, as well as demographic, physiological and behavioral data.

Heidi Parker, Ph.D., who led the genomic analyzes, said: “We have found that New Guinea song dogs and Highland Wild Dogs have very similar genomic sequences, much closer to each other than any other known canine. “

“In the tree of life, this makes them much more related to each other than modern breeds such as the German Shepherd or the Bassett Hound.

The team suggests that the Highland wild dogs have genomic sequences that the New Guinea signatory dogs lost in captivity.

However, they believe that the breading of the two will help create a true population of New Guinea song dogs. In doing so, conservation biologists may be able to help preserve the original breed by increasing the number of New Guinea song dogs.

The team suggests the Highland wild dogs (pictured) have genomic sequences that New Guinea signatory dogs lost in captivity

This kind of work is only possible thanks to NHGRI’s commitment to promoting comparative genomics, which allows researchers to compare the genomic sequences of the Highland Wild Dog to those of a dozen other species of canines, ”he said. Dr Ostrander said.

Although New Guinea song dogs and Highland wild dogs are part of the canine species Canis lupus familiaris, the researchers found that each contained genomic variants in their genomes that do not exist in dogs other than us. know today.

“As we get to know these ancient proto-dogs better, we will learn new facts about modern dog breeds and the history of dog domestication,” said Dr Ostrander. “After all, a lot of what we learn about dogs is reflected in humans.

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