Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Top Dog: How Dingoes Save Native Animals

Credit: Bobby Tamayo

During droughts, dingoes limit the abundance of the red fox and feral cat. Credit: Bobby Tamayo

By Aaron Greenville

Dingoes are considered a pest by land managers in Central Australia, but it turns out they are effective pest managers of feral cats and foxes – until the rains come.

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

Nothing quite gets your blood flowing like an encounter with a large predator, whether you’re locking eyes with a lion, even from the safety of a safari vehicle, or listening to the haunting howl of a dingo in remote central Australia. Our instincts tell us to defend ourselves, be ready to get out of their way, to fight or flee. Not surprisingly, when we consider the deep-seated nature of these instincts, humans are responsible for the persecution of large predators all around the world – and their populations are declining.

However, recent research shows that large predators such as lions, sharks and wolves play important roles in their ecosystems. Sitting at the top of the food chain allows them to cast their influence widely.

The subtle but pervasive influence of top predators has become increasingly acknowledged through the study of ecosystem interactions, with important understanding emerging that top predators can limit the populations of smaller “mesopredators”. For example, the grey wolf in North America affects populations of the smaller coyote. In Africa, lions and leopards can restrict populations of the olive baboon.

When populations of these top predators are reduced, populations of the smaller predators increase. In turn, smaller prey species come under increased predation pressure and can suffer.

Like wolves in North America,...

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