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Falkland wolves

8 March 2013

Apparently, when European ships first arrived in the Falkland Islands around 300 years ago there was just one mammal species living there – the so called Falkland wolf. They resembled foxes rather than wolves and lived off marine animals such as penguins and seals. There was a similar species living on mainland Argentina but both of them died out after coming into contact sith humans – keeping livestock such as sheep isn't the best thing around wolves. Darwin wrote about them and he wondered how the animal had reached a group of islands 300 miles from the South American coast, down in the southern ocean – see www.io9.com/5988917/geneticists-may-have-just-solved-one-of-natures-most… Genetics revealed the mainland and Falkland specimens have evolved separately from a common ancestor – going back 16,000 years ago. This was, in effect, the End of the Ice Age, and probably involved an event of some kind. In the Late Glacial Maximum there was a shallow and narrow strait between the islands and the mainland, allowing the animal to cross over when the sea was frozen and iced over, possibly in pursuit of marine prey. Sea levels, at that moment in time, rose and flooded what are now submarine terraces off the coast of Argentina, isolating the animal – which continued to thrive.

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