This New Guinea Dog is Singing a New Tune

The species was thought to be extinct for 50 years.

Sep 18, 2020

Dogs have been known for their bark, or howl in some cases, but the New Guinea singing dog has a very unique voice. This breeds vocalizations of barks and howls are very harmonic. Now, it is being heard in the wild again.

The dogs natural habitat is in the forests of New Guinea where they are locally known as highland dogs but they were thought to be extinct in the wild according to CNN. Only around 200 captive singing dogs, the descendants of wild dogs captured 50 years ago, live in conservation centers or zoos where they have been inbreeding.

The island is the second largest in the world and is located in Melanesia in the Pacific Ocean. The eastern half of the island is the independent country Papua New Guinea while the western half belongs to Indonesia.

No dogs have been seen in their natural habitat since then, until 2016, when researchers found and studied 15 wild singing dogs in a remote area of the western side of the island in Papua, Indonesia according to CNN. A second expedition returned to the site – located by the Grasberg gold and copper mine – to collect hair, blood, tissue, and saliva samples to see if this pack of dogs are the predecessors of the singing dogs in captivity.

Many feared that the highland dogs had become extinct and that these dogs were the results of singing dogs mating with wild feral dogs.

When the DNA was compared to the captive singing dogs, it was noted that the genomes weren't identical but they were close enough to consider the Indonesian dogs the original New Guinea singing dogs. The research was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"They look most related to a population of conservation biology New Guinea singing dogs that were descended from eight dogs brought to the United States many, many, many years ago," said Elaine Ostrander, a distinguished investigator at the National Institutes of Health and senior author of the study.

"The conservation dogs are super inbred; (it) started with eight dogs, and they've been bred to each other, bred to each other, and bred to each other for generations – so they've lost a lot of genetic diversity."

This study provided information related to the domestication of dogs according to the New York Times. Claudio Sillero, a conservation biologist at Oxford University and the chair of the canid specialist group at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature told the NYT that the singing dogs are,the most ancient ‘domestic’ dogs on earth.”

The researchers hope to be able to breed some of these wild highland dogs to those in captivity to generate a population for true New Guinea singing dogs according to CNN.

“New Guinea singing dogs are rare, they're exotic they have this beautiful harmonic vocalization that you don't find anywhere else in nature so losing that as a species is not a good thing. We don't want to see this [species] disappear,” Ostrander told CNN.

“By getting to know these ancient, proto-dogs more, we will learn new facts about modern dog breeds and the history of dog domestication," Ostrander said. "After all, so much of what we learn about dogs reflects back on humans.” After all, dogs are really a man and woman’s best friend.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.