Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

The World’s Most Interesting Genome

Sandy at 3 weeks of age. Credit: Barry Eggleton

Sandy at 3 weeks of age. Credit: Barry Eggleton

By Bill Ballard

Sequencing of the genome of a pure-bred dingo pup rescued from the side of a remote desert track will enable scientists to examine one of Charles Darwin’s few remaining untested theories.

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

In 2014, animal-lovers Barry and Lyn Eggleton were travelling near the Strzelecki Track in the South Australian desert when their four-wheel drive went over the top of two furballs lying in the middle of the road. Barry and Lyn stopped, jumped out and discovered a pair of 2-week-old dingoes. They then found a third pup on the side of the road that was too weak to move.

Barry and Lyn gave the pups water and scoured the surrounds to see if a parent could be found. After several hours in the baking sun, they decided to take the pups with them rather than let them die.

Back at their NSW home, the pups were defleaed, deloused and then hand-raised with a critical eye and attention to detail. Barry and Lyn then decided to see if the three amigos were genetically pure.

I received a blood sample from Sandy on 29 September 2014 with a simple note saying that three pups had been found east of the Moomba gas facility in South Australia. DNA analyses, using a test initially developed by Alan Wilton, showed that Sandy was a pure dingo with no sign of any dog genes.

Alan was the face of dingo genetic research for more than a decade and was awarded the Australian Science Communicators Unsung Hero of Science Award in 2004. Sadly, he passed-away on 14 October 2011 after a 20-month battle with cancer. Following Alan’s death, I embraced his work on dingoes.

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