ARC-funded researchers from The Australian National University and The University of Western Australia have radiocarbon dated the oldest known dingo bones from Madura Cave on the Nullarbor Plain and have found that they are between 3,348 and 3,081 years old—later than thought previously.

Archaeologist and ARC Australian Laureate Fellow, Professor Sue O’Connor, says that most researchers believed dingoes arrived in Australia sometime between 4,000 and 8,000 years ago or possibly even earlier. They were almost certainly introduced as domestic animals and once in Australia they became feral but were tamed by Indigenous Australians and used as companion animals in much the same way as dogs today. Their spread would have been rapid because it would have been aided by people, as they were useful animals or pets and were likely transferred between groups.

The new dating techniques were conducted directly on dingo bone from the cave deposits, rather than by using charcoal from a nearby hearth, which is far less accurate. The more accurate dating information helps us to better understand the timing of the disappearance of a number of other native animals including the Thylacine from mainland Australia, which followed their predation by newly-arrived dingoes.

The new evidence suggests that dingoes arrived in Australia more recently than previously believed.

Image: Wild dog dingo in the wild nature Australia.
Credit: Baranov.