Watching “America’s Got Talent” will have you wondering what made some of the contestants go there in the first place because clearly, they cannot sing. Simon would, however, be impressed by the outstanding skills the “singing” dog thought to be extinct but has emerged after 50 years, portrays. Each singing dog has a unique howl used to communicate with the fellow dogs, and together, the “singing” would put some of the AGT contestants to shame. Besides their singing that can range from howl to chirping, the dogs are a mystery. There is so much to unearth about them, and here is what we have discovered so far.
They date back to 6,000 years
According to San Diego Zoo, the singing dog, better known as the New Guinea singing dog, has fossils that date back to 6,000 years ago; hence they are termed as living fossils. Like we wonder which came first between the chicken and the egg, there is still a mystery regarding which came first between the Australian Dingo and the New Guinea singing dog. It is known that until 6,000 years ago, there was a land bridge connecting Australia and New Guinea; thus, it is speculated that the Dingo could have originated from the singing dog. On the other hand, according to the article, the singing dog could also have originated from the Dingo, and still, there could have been another dog that gave rise to the two different dog species.
However, scientists can only document the history as far as the 1950s when in 1957, two singing dogs left New Guinea for Australia and were placed in Taronga Zoo. Since they did not have the right scientific name, the scientists coined Canis Hallstromi to pay tribute to Taronga Zoo founder, Sir Edward Hallstromi. The question of which came first between the Australian Dingo and the Singing Dog seemed to have been settled in 1969 when the singing dogs were identified as the Australian Dingo subspecies. As a result, the scientific name was changed to Canis lupus familiaris dingo, but then the scientists thought it best to retain the first name, Canis Halstromi.
The only two photographs taken of the Singing Dogs
Headlines are reading, “Singing dog thought to be extinct emerges after 50 years,” It can be confusing to some people thinking that the dogs were in the same class as dinosaurs. However, you will be surprised to learn that there are around 300 singing dogs held in captivity. Since inbreeding is going on, soon they might be completely wiped off the face of the earth. Earth Rangers reported that the dogs have not been spotted for over 30 years is because their population in the wild is low and they are timid. It is also difficult to differentiate if what you see in the wild is the New Guinea singing dog or mixed breed between the domesticated canine and the rare species. Therefore, do not be shocked to hear that the only two photos ever captured of the wild dogs were in 1989 and 2012.
The 1989 photograph was taken by Tim Flannery, an Australian mammalogist and paleontologist, who published it in his book “The Mammals of New Guinea.” The second photograph was taken by Tom Hewitt, who had no idea what he had captured on his camera. Hewitt had taken a client on a private expedition; the client wanted to reach the highest peak of Star Mountain Range in New Guinea. On their way back, the guide exclaimed, “dog!” prompting Hewitt to take pictures of the canine that seemed surprised to see humans as the humans were to see it. It is believed to be the New Guinea singing because the sighting happened where no domesticated dog would survive.
Why The Singing Dogs are Said to Have Emerged
According to The New York Times, James McIntyre has been interested in the New Guinea singing dogs since 1996 when he first searched for them on the island in 1996. Unfortunately, he was not lucky to spot them. Therefore, once Tom Hewitt had evidence that the canines existed in the wild, James went back to the island in 2016 and stayed for a month thanks to funding from PT Freeport Indonesia, a mining company. James took 159 pictures of 15 different dogs in his expedition. He referred to them as the “Highland wild dogs” since he was not sure they were the singing dogs. He had high hopes they were the singing dogs because they acted, howled, and looked like them. However, his attempts to find an answer were futile because scientists were still unable to conclude the wild dogs were the same as those held in captivity.
Thus in 2018, James returned to Papua, and instead of pictures, he carried DNA of three dogs from the 15 whose photographs he had taken. Researchers concluded that the dogs were indeed related to the singing dogs. The nearly identical genetics was because inbreeding had degraded singing dogs’ genome, causing those that James found to have traces of the village dogs’ genes. Regardless of the degradation, the traces were proof that the singing dogs thought to be extinct exist in the wild.
Are they at risk of going extinct?
As much as inbreeding threatens the singing dogs’ survival rates, the lack of research into the species is assumed to be the main reason why the animals will go extinct. If Tom, Tim and James had not bothered to take photos and DNA, no one would have looked into their existence. Therefore, it is no wonder that even if they exist, they still have been thought to be extinct for over 50 years. Some researchers believe the only way to preserve the species is to breed those in captivity with the highland dogs to reintroduce the genetic diversity that has faded with time.