Prehistoric Ice-Skating Wolves Once Roamed the Falkland Islands

Hooray science! Here’s an intensely weird mental image to enjoy: Scientists are theorizing that the prehistoric ancestors of the now-extinct Falkland Islands wolf (RIP, 1876) got there by way of “ice-skating” across the frozen ocean during the last Ice Age. The creature’s presence had perplexed Darwin, but with the advent of DNA testing, scientists are developing a more complete picture of how the Falkland Islands wolf got to be on the islands:

Via LiveScience:

The reddish coyote-sized Falkland Islands wolf was the only mammal native to the Falkland Islands far off the east coast of Argentina. The foxlike predator lived on seals, penguins and sea birds until hunters exterminated it in 1876.

The existence of the Falklands wolf perplexed Darwin when he first encountered it in 1834. “How did this great big carnivore arrive to a set of islands 460 kilometers (285 miles) from the nearest mainland when no other terrestrial mammal did?” asked researcher Alan Cooper, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Adelaide in Australia. “If it came by a land bridge, then the islands should’ve been covered with rodents as well, since South America is rodent central.”

“It was incredibly tame — it swam out to meet sailors, wagging its tail,” Cooper told LiveScience. “That led to suggestions that it was a semi-domesticated dog that Native Americans took out while hunting, explaining how it got to the Falklands when there were no other mammals there.” [Gallery: Photos Reveal Amazing Wolves]

However, past analysis of DNA from museum specimens of the Falklands wolf, including one that Darwin collected, revealed it was not a dog after all. Instead, its nearest living ancestor was the maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus) from the South American savannas, an odd predator resembling a red fox with almost stiltlike legs.

To help solve the mystery of how the Falklands wolf colonized the islands, Cooper and his colleagues compared its DNA with remains of what seemed like its closest extinct mainland relative, Dusicyon avus. This carnivore is similar to the Falklands wolf, save for smaller teeth and jaws.

The analysis suggested the Falklands wolf did not become isolated from its mainland cousins until about 16,000 years ago, before scientists think humans arrived this far south in South America. This time coincided with the last height of the ice age, when glaciers covered large portions of the planet.

If you haven’t died of sugar shock thinking of sweet, tail-wagging, ice-skating doggies, you can click here to learn more.

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  • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

    Yeah, its too bad they died out. There are some “ice skating” wolves living in the middle of Lake Superior though on Isle Royal. I plane to kayak there some time, maybe this summer. (take a ferry out there and then Kayak around the island)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolves_and_Moose_on_Isle_Royale

  • BuzzCoastin

    interesting article, a few things to note:
    it’s not possible to tell the difference between a dog & wolf at the DNA level
    DNA can only show relationships of breeds

    there’s archeological evidence that humans were in South America at least 30,000 BCE
    and were probably there 250,000 BCE if not millions of years before
    but most mainstreamers pass on that

    and simply popping open Google Earth
    will inform you that the Falkland Islands are a mountain top
    on the submerged coast of South America
    which was above water during most of the previous ice age

  • BuzzCoastin

    interesting article, a few things to note:
    it’s not possible to tell the difference between a dog & wolf at the DNA level
    DNA can only show relationships of breeds

    there’s archeological evidence that humans were in South America at least 30,000 BCE
    and were probably there 250,000 BCE if not millions of years before
    but most mainstreamers pass on that

    and simply popping open Google Earth
    will inform you that the Falkland Islands are a mountain top
    on the submerged coast of South America
    which was above water during most of the previous ice age

    • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

      Yeah, but this particular canine is not closely related to dogs or wolves. Its closest relative was the Maned wolf which is a different genus than canis lupus.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maned_wolf

    • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

      Yeah, but this particular canine is not closely related to dogs or wolves. Its closest relative was the Maned wolf which is a different genus than canis lupus.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maned_wolf

      • BuzzCoastin

        yeah, the article is not well written
        but all dogs and wolves are canine as is Chrysocyon brachyurus

        looking at the Wiki on it & it’s present habitat range
        I would assume, based on reasonably documented data
        that the Chrysocyon brachyurus on the Falklands
        was an ancestor trapped there during the submersion of the coastal lowlands
        somewhere around 15,000ish BCE
        originally a domesticated canine that went feral after a major disaster

        what makes me smarter than Darwin?
        several million electric centuries & the internet

        • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

          Well, I suppose its possible, but All domesticated dogs are descended from Canis Lupus. No other species of canid has been domesticated to create dogs. Even the New World dogs are descended from Asian wolves.

        • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

          Well, I suppose its possible, but All domesticated dogs are descended from Canis Lupus. No other species of canid has been domesticated to create dogs. Even the New World dogs are descended from Asian wolves.

          • BuzzCoastin

            right, but as you pointed out this wolf is a cousin, not a brother
            the article suggests they skated across the frozen sea to get to the islands
            Darwin was perplexed as to how they got there
            but it’s obvious from hindsight, tons of new data & Google Earth
            that that canine was stranded there when the lowlands submerged
            around the Younger Dyus period
            and I’m conjecturing that its tame behavior
            indicates that it was a domesticate canine
            prior to the disaster that stranded it there
            when it’s human tamers were wiped out

          • BuzzCoastin

            right, but as you pointed out this wolf is a cousin, not a brother
            the article suggests they skated across the frozen sea to get to the islands
            Darwin was perplexed as to how they got there
            but it’s obvious from hindsight, tons of new data & Google Earth
            that that canine was stranded there when the lowlands submerged
            around the Younger Dyus period
            and I’m conjecturing that its tame behavior
            indicates that it was a domesticate canine
            prior to the disaster that stranded it there
            when it’s human tamers were wiped out

          • http://twitter.com/TedHeistman Ted Heistman

            yeah but ice skating is cool! That’s how the wolves in Isle Royale rock it!

          • BuzzCoastin

            if there’s one thing clear from the archeological record it’s this:
            nouns move around any which way they can

        • “Big” Richard Johnson

          Makes being a Cat lover easier.

          They didn’t change, we didn’t change, we just sort of realized we liked each other.

          Thus, the Cat and the Human became friends.

          That Felis Catus will probably outlive Homo Sapiens is just a bonus.

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