Rare Singing Dog Species, Thought To Be Extinct for 50 Years, Lives On in the Wild

The New Guinea singing dog, a rare animal that was thought to be extinct for 50 years, lives on.

A new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that the rare animal species — which is known for its unique vocalization that is described in the study as a "wolf howl with overtones of whale song" — still exist.

According to the study, the species had not been seen in their natural habitat for five decades until 2016, when an expedition team was successfully able to locate and study 15 wild dogs in the remote highlands of the western side of New Guinea. A follow-up team returned to the study site two years later in 2018 to collect blood samples as well as "demographic, morphologic, and behavioral data" from the animals to confirm whether or not there was any relation to the singing dogs that are currently held in captivity.

The scientists then compared the DNA of the highland dogs to that of 16 captive New Guinean singing dogs, 25 dingoes, and over 1,000 dogs from 161 other breeds. A comparison of the DNA extracted suggested that the highland dogs and the captive New Guinean animals had very similar genetic makeup, though the study notes that the samples weren't fully identical.

Researchers now believe the highland dogs are the original New Guinea singing dog species, which are closely related to the dingos found in nearby Australia.

"Assuming these Highland wild dogs are the original New Guinea singing dogs, so to speak, that really gives us a fantastic opportunity for conservation biology," senior author Elaine Ostrander, head of the research group at National Human Genome Research Institute (NGHRI) studying the animals, told Gizmodo.

The outlet reports that the researchers plan to continue surveying the island’s populations of highland wild dogs in the future as well, in order to learn more about the unique animals and their vocal abilities.

Dog Smiles When Woken Up

Researchers are also hopeful that they will be able to breed some of the highland wild dogs with the New Guinea singing dogs, possibly through the use of sperm samples, to enhance the New Guinea singing dog's population, according to CNN.

"New Guinea singing dogs are rare, they're exotic they have this beautiful harmonic vocalization that you don't find anywhere else in nature so losing that as a species is not a good thing," Ostrander told CNN. "We don't want to see this [animal] disappear."

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