Falkland Islands wolves, Dusicyon australis, also known as warrah, are found only on the Falkland Islands, an archipelago off the coast of southern South America. Their closest living relative, Chrysocyon brachyurus, is found on the mainland of South America. (Darwin, 1839; IUCN SSC Canid Specialist Group 2008, 2008; Slater, et al., 2009a)
Falkland Islands wolves lived on both the east and west sides of the islands. They inhabit rocky mountainous terrain or boggy plains and beaches. They were reportedly seen swimming while foraging along the beaches. These wolves apparently occupied burrows in the sand-hills. A finding in 2010 seems to confirm this: teeth and skulls of D. australis were found in a collapsed burrow in the Falkland Islands. Researchers speculate that D. australis did not dig the burrows but rather lived in burrows made by penguins or other animals. (CIA, 2012; Darwin, 1839; Falkland Islands Museum and National Trust, 2012; Hamilton Smith, 1843; Renshaw, 1905)
Falkland Islands wolves were medium-sized, bulky, and fox-like. The legs were short, as was their tails. When they were standing, the tail typically did not reach the ground. The coat was thick, with mixtures of tawny, tan, and black hairs dorsally; the coat became paler ventrally. The neck and inner legs were white. They had relatively small pinnae. The bushy tail was brown in the middle and had a distinctively white tip. Falkland Islands wolves had a mixture of fox and wolf traits that caused them to resemble no other living canid: according to Darwin, "all maintain that no such animal is found in any part of South America" (Darwin, 1839). ("Falkland Island Wolf Photo", 2012; Darwin, 1839; Hamilton Smith, 1839)
The dentition included very large carnassials, notable since their closest living relative, Chrysocyon brachyurus, has greatly reduced carnassials. The carnassials had a protocone that pointed nearly backwards (Osgood, 1934). The skull contained a high arching, expanded frontal bone and no interparietal crest (Clutton-Brock, 1977). ("Falkland Island Wolf Photo", 2012; Osgood, 1934; "Falkland Island Wolf Photo", 2012; Osgood, 1934)
Falkland Islands wolves were the size of large foxes, with an average head-body length of 97 cm. Height at the shoulder was 38.1 cm. The tail was between 28.5 and 33 cm long. Mass is unknown. ("Falkland Island Wolf Photo", 2012; Hamilton Smith, 1839)
There is no information available about the mating systems of Falkland Islands wolves. It is possible that its mating system was similar to that of its closest relative, Chrysocyon brachyurus, which is monogamous. The two species, however, differ greatly in appearance and behavior, as they diverged 6.7 million years ago, and mating systems may not be alike at all (Slater et al, 2009). ("Falkland Island Wolf Photo", 2012; Slater, et al., 2009b; Slater, et al., 2009a)
Little is known of the parental investment of D. australis. One contemporary account relates the capture of three wolves from a burrow: two cubs with an older male (Falkland Islands Museum and National Trust, 2012). Additionally, in 2010 a burrow with four Falkland Islands wolf skulls, including a juvenile, was discovered. These observations and findings suggest that D. australis might have had parental habits similar to those of other canids who raise young in burrows, such as Vulpes vulpes and Lycaon pictus (Renshaw, 1905). (Falkland Islands Museum and National Trust, 2012; Renshaw, 1905)
Some interactions between Falkland Islands wolves and humans were documented. Darwin noted their particularly gentle nature, they did not seem to fear humans. The only mammal native to the Falkland Islands, these wolves showed traits of "tameness and curiosity" (Darwin) toward human visitors to the islands. Some wolves were reportedly domesticated by inhabitants of the islands in the 1800s (Clutton-Brock, 1977). Unfortunately, this unusual tameness was used to their disadvantage: as Darwin notes, men "frequently killed them in the evening, by holding out a piece of meat in one hand, and in the other a knife ready to stick them." (Clutton-Brock, 1977; Clutton-Brock, 1977; Darwin, 1839)
Little else is known about Falkland Islands wolf behavior. This species is extinct; the only observations of living individuals come from 19th century primary accounts, of which there are few. Nineteenth century naturalist Hamilton Smith reported that D. australis had a "feeble bark" and was active during the day. They hunted alone, not in packs (Renshaw, 1905). The burrows in which the wolves likely slept and raised young were sometimes interconnected (Renshaw, 1905), implying intraspecific social interactions. Hamilton Smith noted that the wolves were "social" despite their hunting habits. (Falkland Islands Museum and National Trust, 2012; Hamilton Smith, 1839; Hamilton Smith, 1843; Renshaw, 1905)
There is no information about home range behavior, although it was confined to either the western or eastern half of the Falkland Islands.
Hamilton Smith reported that Dusicyon australis tended not to vocalize often but sometimes its cries could be heard at night. In addition, after settlers colonized the islands, the wolves began to "learn a kind of barking." Little is known about their intraspecific social habits. (Clutton-Brock, 1977)
As there were no other mammals present on the Falkland Islands, Dusicyon australis preyed upon birds (especially geese and penguins), small invertebrates, and pinnipeds that they would catch on the shores. In addition, Hamilton Smith reported that these wolves would eat "fish, crabs, limpets, lizards, toads, serpents, and insects." ("Falkland Island Wolf Photo", 2012; Clutton-Brock, 1977; Darwin, 1839; Slater, et al., 2009a)
Dusicyon australis was the top predator in its habitat and faced no natural predation until the colonization of the Falkland Islands by humans.
Dusicyon austalis was the dominant predator in the Falkland Islands.
According to Hamilton Smith, the settlers of the islands reportedly domesticated some Falkland Islands wolves, although to what extent the animals were tamed is unknown. In addition, hunters killed these wolves for their fur, which was sold in the fur trade. The fur in particular ended up in New York at “the fur stores of Mr G Astor" (Hamilton Smith, 1839), who amassed a large number of Falkland Island wolf pelts. (Clutton-Brock, 1977; Falkland Islands Museum and National Trust, 2012; Hamilton Smith, 1839; Hamilton Smith, 1843; Renshaw, 1905)
Although Dusicyon australis did not often represent a threat toward humans because of its relative tameness, there were scattered reports of wolf attacks on humans. These wolves may have represented a threat to livestock, although naturalist Graham Renshaw argued that this fear was unsubstantiated (Renshaw, 1905). Nonetheless, the wolf was hunted to extinction by settlers for this reason as well as for its fur. (Clutton-Brock, 1977; Darwin, 1839; Renshaw, 1905)
Dusicyon australis is extinct. During the 1800's, the species was already in decline due to human settlers, who killed these wolves for their fur and to protect livestock. By 1839 Astor's fur hunters had greatly reduced the number of wolves on the islands (Hamilton Smith, 1839). By the end of the 19th century, they were extinct, with the final member of the species killed most likely in 1876. (Darwin, 1839; Hamilton Smith, 1839; IUCN SSC Canid Specialist Group 2008, 2008)
Dusicyon australis has presented scientists with a mystery ever since its discovery. Many zoologists have wondered how only one mammal species managed to arrive on the Falkland Islands. However, because they are extinct, specimens are rare. Although Hamilton Smith reported numerous pelts in a New York fur store, these furs have not been found. Only 11 specimens have been preserved and very few with skins. Some scientists suggest that these wolves were brought by humans to the islands in the last 10,000 years, noting that they share many traits with domesticated dogs, such as a white tail tip and a larger frontal bone (Clutton-Brock, 1977). A 2009 study by Slater et al. used molecular dating to determine that the Falkland Islands wolf lineage dated to 330,000 years ago, long before humans arrived in South America (Slater et al, 2009). In addition, the study found that Dusicyon australis is most closely related to maned wolves (Chrysocyon brachyurus) and diverged about 6.7 mya. They suggested that Dusicyon australis might have reached the Falkland Islands "by rafting or dispersing over glacial ice during the late Pleistocene." (Clutton-Brock, 1977; Hamilton Smith, 1839; Slater, et al., 2009b; Slater, et al., 2009a)
Dusicyon austalis may have been several species. Darwin reported that wolves living on the eastern and western sides of the archipelago looked slightly different and were possible separate species. Western Falkland Island wolves were typically smaller, with white feet and a longer tail (Hamilton Smith, 1839). (Darwin, 1839; Hamilton Smith, 1839)
Katherine Oshman (author), Yale University, Eric Sargis (editor), Yale University, Rachel Racicot (editor), Yale University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.
uses sound to communicate
young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.
having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.
a wetland area rich in accumulated plant material and with acidic soils surrounding a body of open water. Bogs have a flora dominated by sedges, heaths, and sphagnum.
an animal that mainly eats meat
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
the nearshore aquatic habitats near a coast, or shoreline.
animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.
parental care is carried out by females
animals that live only on an island or set of islands.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
remains in the same area
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
associates with others of its species; forms social groups.
uses touch to communicate
that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).
Living on the ground.
A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.
A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.
A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.
uses sight to communicate
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
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