|1890 illustration of Falkland Wolf. Artwork by John Gerrard|
Habitat & Distribution
|The Falkland Islands. Wiki.|
- Shoulder Height: 40 to 45cm (1.3 to 1.5ft)
- Head and Body Length: 95 to 100cm (3.1 to 3.3ft)
- Tail Length: 28 to 30cm (0.9 to 1ft)
- Weight: 10 to 25kg (22 to 55lbs)
Ecology & Behavior
Unfortunately this species was never formally studied, and so most aspects of its behavior are unknown. By comparing it to its living relatives, however, we can infer that they would form monogamous pairs with both parents aiding in rearing the young. They were limited to only small prey on the islands, and so hunting and feeding among adults would have likely been a solitary affair.
Interestingly, the Falkland Wolf was the only terrestrial mammal on the
Falkland Islands. Therefore, its diet consisted mainly of ground-nesting
birds such as gulls, penguins, and geese, which it would have killed by crushing the neck vertebrae. It is also known to have fed readily on insects. On the beaches they would have picked off unattended seal and sea lion pups, and also scavenged the carcasses of dead
animals that washed ashore. It was the only land predator of the Falklands and so had no competitors.
When Charles Darwin first encountered the Falkland Wolf in 1833, he noted that the population was already in decline, and predicted that its extinction would be eminent with the arrival of permanent settlers. He also claimed that it would be easy to kill by hunters due to its lack of fear of humans (as the largest predator of its environment, it did not need to fear anything). Sadly, he was right on both counts. As increasing numbers of visits were made to the islands during the 1800s, Falkland Wolf numbers began to dwindle. In 1839, the arrival of fur traders from the
United States in particular led to huge population declines. However, it was the arrival of Scottish settlers in the 1860s that sealed this species' fate. In a groundless belief that it was a threat to livestock, a huge poisoning campaign was launched and the species was systematically eradicated. The last known individual died in 1876, just 43 years after Darwin's arrival.
No conservation measures were ever made to preserve the Falkland Wolf, it was deliberately eradicated. Today, thanks to the work of the Falklands Conservation Organization, the outlook for the island's other residents is far more positive and it is hoped that tragic extinctions such as this will never be repeated.
References & Further Reading
|Falkland Island Wolf skull. Photo from Arkive.|
Slater GJ, Thalmann O, Leonard JA, Schweizer RM, Koepfli KP, Pollinger JP, Rawlence NJ, Austin JJ, Cooper A, Wayne RK (2009). "Evolutionary history of the Falklands wolf". Current Biology 19 (20): 937-938. <http://download.cell.com/current-biology/pdf/PIIS0960982209016959.pdf?intermediate=true>
Lyras GA, Van Der Geer AAE (2003). "External brain anatomy in relation to the phylogeny of Caninae (Carnivora: Canidae)". Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 138 (4): 505–522. <http://users.uoa.gr/~geeraae/publications/2003-Linnean-Caninaebrain.pdf>
Glover, M. A. (June 1942). Extinct and vanishing mammals of the Western Hemispere: with marine species of all oceans”. Cooper Square Publishers. ISBN 978-0-8154-0433-0
Nowak, R.M. (1999). "Walker's Mammals of the World". Johns Hopkins University Press. Baltimore Maryland
Falklands Conservation (March, 2009). http://www.falklandsconservation.com