October 19 – A Tale of the Ragged Mountains

Today’s factismal: The dingo was introduced to Australia 4,000 years ago by Polynesian traders.

Invasive animals and plants are a problem everywhere, but they are particularly pernicious in Australia. That’s because the “island continent” has been isolated from the rest of the world for so long that most of its species lack defenses against the invaders. To make a bad situation worse, many of the invaders come from regions with more intense evolutionary competition and so have learned to do more with less; as a result, they simply out-compete the native species.

A baby cane toad (My camera)

A baby cane toad
(My camera)

That’s why rabbits have run rampant across southern Australia and why camels clomp through the western deserts. (Amusing side note: the camels in Australia are such pure breeds that they are imported into Arabia where the camels suffer from in-breeding.) That’s why cane toads are wrecking the rain forest and why feral cats have become public health menace number one in the cities. And it is especially why dingoes have wiped out so many native species.

A dingo in the wild (Image courtesy Henry Whitehead)

A dingo in the wild
(Image courtesy Henry Whitehead)

The dingo is a feral dog that has evolved over the 4,000 years since it was accidentally introduced to Australia by passing Polynesians. It has adapted well to Australia’s drier regions, developing fluffier ears to screen out the sand and a sandy brown coat to blend in with the background. And, over the years since it first appeared on Australia’s shores, it has adapted very well to hunting the local wildlife. Though it will attack sheep and cattle (two more introduced species that verge on being invasive), it really likes to munch on rabbits (yeah) and kangaroos (boo) making both a boon and a bane. Indeed, there are actually a few programs devoted to preserving the dingo which is in danger of being driven out of some parts of Australia.

Of course, Australia isn’t the only place with invasive species. If you’d like to find out if that new weed is an invasive or would like to report an invasive species, then head on over to My Invasive:
http://www.myinvasive.com/

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