Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Australia’s First Dingo


The low genetic diversity observed in dingoes indicates that present-day populations might be derived from an isolated colonisation event that involved just a single pregnant female. Credit: Sam Fraser-Smith/Wikimedia Commons

By Joanne Wright & David Lambert

Genetic analyses suggest that in a single colonising event the dingo reached Australia during the Holocene. Since rising seas had already inundated the land bridge connecting Australia to South-East Asia, the dingo must have been accompanying an ancient human sailor.

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Australia has some of the earliest evidence of human habitation outside Africa, with initial settlement dated between 40,000 and 60,000 years ago. Much of our knowledge of the prehistory of Australia’s first people, the Aboriginal Australians, comes from archaeological remnants such as tools, shell middens, rock art, and the remains of the people themselves.

The Holocene, which encompasses the period from approximately 12,000 years ago to the present, was a period of major environmental change in Australia. Until that time, Australia, New Guinea and Tasmania were connected, and comprised a single continent known as Sahul.

An increase in temperature caused a post-glacial rise in sea levels, and this geographic continuity became interrupted. Approximately 12,000 years ago Australia and Tasmania became separated, and 8000 years ago the isthmus connecting New Guinea and Australia became submerged.

Between 6000 and 3000 years ago, there is evidence of sudden major cultural change occurring in Australia. Described by many as a mid-Holocene “intensification”, during this period a number of new innovations and technologies appeared suddenly in the archaeological record after an extended period of little change.

During the Pleistocene, the stone tool kit used by Aboriginal Australians consisted of very basic flaked stone implements. However, it...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.