How to find the rarest dog in the world: On the trail of the New Guinea Singing Dog »
Why is the New Guinea Singing Dog so special? Why should we be trying to save its dwindling wild population?
The Highland Wild Dog of the Island of Papua is considered by many to be the rarest dog on the planet. NGSDs exhibit many unique behaviors found nowhere else in any other breeds of dogs. NGSDs are considered [to be the] link between the first dog—wolf—and today’s domestic breeds. Isolation has kept them pure, but encroaching villagers, accompanied by their domestic village dogs, threatens their continued genetic purity. Little is known about the captive needs and behaviors of NGSDs, but nothing is known about their natural history in the wild. No scientific estimates of the wild population can legitimately be made. Education, scientific captive management, and habitat and species protection are just some of the measures that need to be taken if the NGSD is to survive.
Becky Crew of Running Ponies continues the story of “the rarest dog in the world" with an interview with field zoologist James McIntyre of the Southwest Pacific Research Foundation, who is leading an expedition to find and study the dogs in the wild.
[photo of captive New Guinea Singing Dogs by Nathan Rupert via Flickr]
Poor little spotted kiwi! Like all of New Zealand’s national birds, it used to be super-duper endangered. Then the Department of Conservation established new colonies in areas without predators in the ’80s, and the population boomed. But a recent analysis of these colonies reveal a serious problem with the little spotted kiwis. Per Becky Crew at Running Ponies:
[T]he birds upon which all hopes of substantial genetic diversity rested – had never actually bred. They didn’t even produce one chick. Which means that all the little spotted kiwi on the planet, from every population, have come from the five birds that were originally put on Kapiti Island in 1912.
Genetic diversity is vital to a species’ survival. So what are scientists going to do about it? First, further analysis. They might have to revert the little spotted kiwis’ status back to endangered. If only all humanity had left New Zealand alone. We might still have moa!
[Photo of little spotted kiwi chick by Andrew Digby via Running Ponies]
Hi, cutie-pie! This little weirdo is a mouse lemur, one of two newly discovered in Madagascar through genetic analysis. Of course as soon as we realized they were alive, we had to declare them endangered, because as people all we goddamn do is slash and burn forests (or create the conditions in which slashing and burning forests is someone else’s only option for survival), but still, here they are. Sorry we’ve been fucking with your life before we even knew you existed, little Microcebus murinus.
Read more about our new lemur friends at Scientific American's Running Ponies blog.
[photo by David Haring of the Duke Lemur Center via Running Ponies]
Dogs can recognize other dogs! Thanks, science! »
The researchers found that despite the huge diversity of dog breeds and non-dog species shown to these nine dogs, each one managed to successfully recognise which faces belonged to dogs and which faces didn’t. Whether it was the face of a big, shaggy dog or a tiny, sleek one, the dogs managed over a number of different trials to lump them all into the same category, away from any of the other species.
Following up on two studies on dogs’ ability to recognize pictures of other dogs, and humans (your dog totally knows your face!), researchers in France did a big experiment to see “whether dogs can recognise each other as a separate group, away from other animals, despite their incredible physical diversity.” Answer, per Becky Crew at Running Ponies blog: yes! They can tell other dogs are other dogs, no matter how different two breeds are.
"What’s left to do now is to figure out what physical characteristics the dogs were using to distinguish the pictured dogs from the other species."
Animals are amazing! Are dogs secret geniuses, or have we just been arrogantly underestimating them for millennia? Probably both.
[Photo by saturday_flowers via Flickr]
Becky Crew at Running Ponies has the first photo taken of a wild New Guinea singing dog in 23 years! Hi, Canis lupus dingo var.!
The photo was taken by Tom Hewitt of Adventure Alternative Borneo “ during a trek in the remote Star Mountains of western New Guinea” in August. Apparently most of the few remaining singing dogs live in the western part of the island now, where it’s less populated and easier to hide from all us jerk people.
Find out more about these handsome fellows (related to chows, huskies, and Afghan hounds, among others!) and their weirdly beautiful vocalizations at Running Ponies. We’re glad you’re still around in the wild, singing dogs!