A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Dingoes are far more interesting than 'global warming'.....

I think it's time for a summer holiday from 'global warming' - even I'm becoming bored to my key pad with the nonsense out there: one summer storm, and again we are all doomed! Yesterday's London flooding (folk should live somewhere where they really know about storms) is all too explicable, I fear. As Mayor Ken points out, for the last twenty or so years, the London boroughs have played down the need to spend money to clean out their drains properly. Unsurprisignly, therefore, at the drop of rain cloud, London becomes gunge city. We should also take note that, locally, storms are likely to be more common and fierce because the 'urban heat island' footprint of London is now so large. Accordingly, this was a wonderful combination of surface-driven heat and short-sighted councillors.

Hey, but I said I was taking a holiday from climate change! And so I am. The best story by far at the moment is the report on the work, just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, tracing the origins of that most enigmatic of dogs, the Australian dingo: 'Dingo's origins tracked by DNA' (BBC Science/Nature News, August 2):

"A genetic analysis of the Australian dingo suggests the dogs tagged along on an epic expansion of people out of southern China around 6,000 years ago. An international team claims dingoes descend from a small group that could have been introduced to Australia in a 'single chance event' from Asia.

Evidence from mitochondrial DNA suggests that the wild dogs arrived on the continent around 5,000 years ago.

Peter Savolainen of the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm, Sweden, and colleagues think the introduction of the dogs may be associated with the spread of seafaring Austronesian-speaking people throughout South-East Asia.

The Austronesian culture had its origins in south China, expanding from Taiwan via the Philippines to Indonesia.

Although dingoes are now wild, they descend from domestic dogs that accompanied these Austronesians on their voyages....." (read on)

Now, one doesn't want to be dogmatic, and one may be barking up the wrong gum tree, but this has always been my own dogged assertion about these rangy animals. It's certainly interesting to see mitochondrial DNA adding credence to good old biogeographical instinct.

Mind you, when they got there, it was quite a dingo-dongo with the Tasmanian 'woof'!

Philip, now isn't that more fun than "global 'boring' warming"? Time for a peppermint tea.

[New counter, June 19, 2006, with loss of some data]

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