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320-year-old mystery solved thanks to ancient DNA

Posted by: Craig Woolheater on March 14th, 2013


Painting of a Falkland Islands wolf by Michael Rothman, Ace Coinage Inc. Credit: Michael Rothman, Ace Coinage Inc

University of Adelaide researchers have found the answer to one of natural history’s most intriguing puzzles ā€“ the origins of the now extinct Falkland Islands wolf and how it came to be the only land-based mammal on the isolated islands ā€“ 460km from the nearest land, Argentina.

Previous theories have suggested the wolf somehow rafted on ice or vegetation, crossed via a now-submerged land bridge or was even semi-domesticated and transported by early South American humans.

The 320-year-old mystery was first recorded by early British explorers in 1690 and raised again by Charles Darwin following his encounter with the famously tame species on his Beagle voyage in 1834.

Researchers from the University’s Australian Centre for Ancient DNA (ACAD) extracted tiny pieces of tissue from the skull of a specimen collected personally by Darwin. They also used samples from a previously unknown specimen, which was recently re-discovered as a stuffed exhibit in the attic of Otago Museum in New Zealand.

The findings were published in Nature Communications today and concluded that, unlike earlier theories, the Falkland Islands wolf (Dusicyon australis) only became isolated about 16,000 years ago around the peak of the last glacial period.

Read the rest of the article here.

About Craig Woolheater
Co-founder of Cryptomundo in 2005. I have appeared in or contributed to the following TV programs, documentaries and films: OLN's Mysterious Encounters: "Caddo Critter", Southern Fried Bigfoot, Travel Channel's Weird Travels: "Bigfoot", History Channel's MonsterQuest: "Swamp Stalker", The Wild Man of the Navidad Destination America's Monsters and Mysteries in America: Texas Terror - Lake Worth Monster.


6 Responses to “320-year-old mystery solved thanks to ancient DNA”

  1. PoeticsOfBigfoot responds:

    Cool post! Thanks!

  2. norman-uk responds:

    What a beautiful tool is DNA and a beautiful result !

    I of course would like to see the rascals brought back-the wolve of course !

  3. norman-uk responds:

    wolves/fox

  4. Kopite responds:

    “”first recorded by early British explorers in 1690″”

    There you go Argentinians!! The Brtish were on the Falklands nearly 150 years before you were even an independent country.

  5. skeptik responds:

    @Kopite: LOL?
    Have you not seen Eddie Izzard’s show on how the British ruled the world by the cunning use of flags? :)
    I’m willing to bet other humans walked on the Falklands before the Englishmen did. It’s not about that, unfortunately. As usual, it’s about oil.

  6. Reverend responds:

    @skeptik “Iā€™m willing to bet other humans walked on the Falklands before the Englishmen did.”

    Yes, but did they have a flag? :)



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