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Canis dingo and the Australian smaller-fauna trend: A new explanatory model integrating ecological data

Koungoulos, Loukas
Journal of archaeological science: Reports 2017 v.14 pp. 38-45
archaeology, dingoes, ecological function, fauna, humans, models, predators
This work examines recent efforts to use ecological and cultural functions of dingoes (Canis dingo) to explain a trend in the composition of Holocene faunal assemblages. Two competing explanations identify dingoes as causing human dietary composition to proportionally increase intake of small and medium-sized game, through competitive and assistive functions respectively. These scenarios are not mutually exclusive, but are in fact most convincing when working together. A new model combining this with three important ecological functions of dingoes is introduced, with specific mechanisms by which Holocene dingoes as apex predators and trophic regulators would have decreased large game abundance, and increased that of smaller game. This demonstrates how dingoes in both wild and domestic capacities created a suite of conditions that together made selecting smaller game a less risky, more attractive subsistence strategy for human foragers, thereby driving an archaeological smaller-fauna trend. Dingoes may also have been used to hunt large game reliably, but this was likely restricted to certain times and/or places.