Artefact of the month - April 2013 Falklands Islands wolf, extinct 1876
At the suggestion of Graham Felgate who commented on a previous `Artefact’, this month we are featuring the Falkland Islands wolf, also known as the warrah, Antarctic wolf or Falkland Islands fox Dusicyon australis (Kerr, 1792).
It is just almost 200 years since Charles Darwin commented on this now extinct species. He mentions the animal in Journal of researches into the geology and natural history of the various countries visited by H.M.S. Beagle, under the command of Captain Fitzroy, R.N. from 1832 to 1836 / by Charles Darwin. London : Henry Colburn, 1839. Darwin’s entry for 17 March 1834 :
`The only quadruped native to the island, is a large wolf-like fox, which is common to both East and West Falkland. I have no doubt it is a peculiar species, and confined to this archipelago ; … As far as I am aware there is no other instance in any other part of the world, of so small a mass of broken land, distant from a continent, possessing so large a quadruped peculiar to itself. Their numbers have rapidly decreased … Within a very few years after these islands shall have become regularly settled, in all probability this fox will be classed with the dodo, as an animal which has perished from the face of the earth.’
Darwin’s prediction came true with the species becoming extinct in 1876.
The Proceedings of the Zoological Society 1870 p. 797 gives some information about the final individual of the species to be presented to ZSL :
`Amongst the acquisitions the only animal worth remark was a female of the Antarctic Wolf (Canis antarcticus) received November 8th. Mr. H. Byng, the acting colonial secretary of this colony kindly forwarded a pair of these animals as a present to the Society’s Menagerie: but one survived as a present to the Society’s Gardens’.
According to Major S.S. Flower in List of vertebrated animals exhibited in the gardens of the Zoological Society of London, 1828-1927 three other individuals had been exhibited:
1. Presented 12 June 1845 by Mr W. Brown, died 8 May 1846
2. Presented 31 August 1852, died 8 December 1852
3. Received 24 August 1868, collected by M. A. A. Leconte
Darwin published a more detailed description of the species in The zoology of the voyage of H.M.S. Beagle, under the command of Captain Fitzroy, R.N., during the years 1832 to 1836 : Part II. Mammalia / edited and superintended by Charles Darwin, London : Smith, Elder and Co. 1839. Whilst in 2009 genetic analysis of museum specimens confirmed that the Falklands Island wolf was a wolf not a fox, it’s closest living relative being the maned wolf (Chrysocyon brachyurus), a fox-like South American canid with long legs PDF of 2009 article on genetics of Antarctic wolf
The painting and the publications featured form part of the special collections of ZSL Library, you are welcome to visit and consult/view them but an appointment is necessary Library Regulations for Special Collections (96 KB)Please email email@example.com or telephone 020 447 6293 to make an appointment. Many resources are available in the Library and no appointment is necessary to use these, however if you are a ZSL member please bring your membership card. Non-members will need proof of address and photographic ID if you are not already a member of ZSL.