New dates on dingo bones from Madura Cave provide oldest firm evidence for arrival of the species in Australia

Jane Balme, Sue O’Connor, Stewart Fallon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

12 Citations (Scopus)


The dingo is the only placental land mammal aside from murids and bats to have made the water crossings to reach Australia prior to European arrival. It is thought that they arrived as a commensal animal with people, some time in the mid Holocene. However, the timing of their arrival is still a subject of major debate with published age estimates varying widely. This is largely because the age estimates for dingo arrival are based on archaeological deposit dates and genetic divergence estimates, rather than on the dingo bones themselves. Currently, estimates vary from between 5000–4000 years ago, for finds from archaeological contexts, and as much as 18,000 based on DNA age estimates. The timing of dingo arrival is important as post arrival they transformed Indigenous societies across mainland Australia and have been implicated in the extinction of a number of animals including the Tasmanian tiger. Here we present the results of direct dating of dingo bones from their oldest known archaeological context, Madura Cave on the Nullarbor Plain. These dates demonstrate that dingoes were in southern Australia by between 3348 and 3081 years ago. We suggest that following their introduction the dingo may have spread extremely rapidly throughout mainland Australia.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9933
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018

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  • Projects

    Lifeways of First Australians

    Balme, J. & O'Connor, S.

    Australian Research Council


    Project: Research

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