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Falkland Island fox

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(Redirected from Dusicyon)
Falkland Island Fox
Conservation status: Extinct (1876)

Illustration by John Gerrard Keulemans (1842-1912)
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Mammalia
Order:Carnivora
Family:Canidae
Genus:Dusicyon
Species:D. australis
Binomial name
Dusicyon australis
(Kerr, 1792)

The Falkland Island Fox (Dusicyon australis, formerly named Canis antarcticus), also known as the Warrah and occasionally as the Falkland Island Wolf or Antarctic Wolf and by Argentine writers as the Malvinas Zorro, was the only native land mammal of the Falkland Islands. This endemic canid became extinct in 1876, the only known canid to have gone extinct in historical times. Its most closely related species in the genus Dusicyon of southern-hemisphere foxes is Dusicyon griseus, the culpeo or Patagonian fox.

The fur of the Falkland Island Fox had a tawny colour. The tip of the tail was white. The diet is unknown. Due to the absence of native rodents it probably consisted of ground-nesting birds such as geese and penguins, grubs and insects, as well as seashore scavenging (Allen 1942).

When Charles Darwin visited the islands in 1833 he named the species Canis antarcticus and described it as common and tame. The settlers regarded the fox as a threat to their sheep and organised poisoning and shooting on a massive scale. The absence of forests led to a speedy success of the extermination campaign. This was faciliated by the animal's tameness, as is common in insular species due to the absence of predators - trappers would lure the animal with a chunk of meat held in one hand, and kill it with a knife or stick held in the other.

It has been speculated that the unusual distribution of this animal (the only canine native to an oceanic island) and some details of the skull suggest that it originally arrived with natives visiting the islands and was kept by them as a pet in a semi-domesticated state. If that is true, the progenitor form from mainland South America would have become extinct during the last Ice Age. DNA analysis of museum specimens have proved rather inclonclusive as to the exact relationship of this animal, some even suggesting hybridization (during the domestication process) with a relative or progenitor of the coyote; it is not known whether this would have been possible. At any rate, the Falkland Island Fox is a biogeographical mystery.

Reference

  • G.M. Allen, Extinct and Vanishing Mammals of the Western Hemisphere, 1942de:Falklandfuchs

he:שועל מאלוויני pt:Raposa das Falkland

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