Saturday 23 July 2016

What's in a name?

You may remember I was surprised to discover some months back that the Macquarie Dictionary still uses the taxonomy Canis Lupis Dingo even though the Australian Government uses Canis Dingo and we all believed that was the correct taxonomy.

I have also noticed that both Sydney’s Taronga Zoo and the National Zoo also use Canis Lupis Dingo. Why? That is what I have been trying to find out. So I took it to an expert and this is a summary of what I have been told.

He agreed there is still speculation about the name of the dingo depending on whether the dingo is accepted as being distinct from dogs.

We know Meyer used Canis dingo in 1793 which was upheld by the International Commission for Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) in 1956. I understand that Canis lupus dingo, was proposed to the ICZN based on dingoes and dogs descending from wolves, but was never accepted. (I don’t know what year this was)

Canis familiaris came about because you can’t have a domesticated subspecies. Hence Canis lupus dingo cannot be a valid name. The same rule of not having a domesticated subspecies also applies in the case of Canis familiaris dingo – not valid

Evidently, regardless of the DNA evidence, there is still considerable debate on whether the dingo is unique enough for Canis dingo, or if it just a dog Canis familiaris. Whether it is a species or not depends on definitions.

Dingoes are not the only canids where debate continues about classification because of multiple origins of domestication etc

As always with the Dingo, politics comes into play. By giving Dingoes their own classification it makes it harder for those who want to see them eliminated completely.

Finally, the ICZN can make a recommendation, but they can’t actually make laws.

Clear as mud? Yep.

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