Distinguishing between whether a species is alien or native can be problematic, especially for introduced species that are long-established in new areas outside of their natural range. Transport by humans is the criterion for alien status used by many definitions, whereas arbitrary time since arrival to a location is often used to define native status. Here I propose an eco-evolutionary approach to distinguish between alien and native status and use this to resolve uncertainty in the status of the dingo in Australia. Dingoes were transported to mainland Australia by humans, but more than 4000 years ago, and dingoes now interbreed with feral domestic dogs. Legally, this mix of events has the dingo classified as native in some jurisdictions and alien in others. I suggest that native status for introduced species should be based on (1) whether the species has evolved in their new environment; (2) whether local species recognise and respond to them as they do towards deep endemic native species, and; (3) whether their impacts benchmark against those of a native species or are exaggerated like those of other alien species. Dingoes are behaviourally, reproductively and morphologically different to close ancestors from south-east Asia, and this difference has a genetic basis indicative of evolution in Australia. There is abundant evidence that native prey species on mainland Australia recognise and respond to them as a dangerous predator, which they are. But there is strong evidence that dingo impacts on prey are not exaggerated, with effect sizes from mensurative experiments similar to those of experiments on native predators rather than alien predators. These three lines of evidence suggest dingoes should be considered native to mainland Australia. I suggest this eco-evolutionary approach to defining native status can be helpful in resolving the often-heated debates about when an alien species becomes native.
An eco-evolutionary rationale to distinguish alien and native status: why the dingo is a native species on mainland Australia
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Peter B. Banks; An eco-evolutionary rationale to distinguish alien and native status: why the dingo is a native species on mainland Australia. Australian Zoologist 28 October 2021; 41 (3): 358–366. doi: https://doi.org/10.7882/AZ.2021.039
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