Darwin and the Warrah

While in the Falklands, Darwin encountered Dusicyon Australis, a native wolf called the Warrah.  How did the animal wind up on the islands?  Darwin was mystified, since he found no evidence the creature existed anywhere else.  The naturalist observed that the Warrah was remarkably tame, and he described a gaucho technique of luring the creature with a piece of meat with one hand and then sticking the animal with a knife in the other.  Ominously, Darwin predicted the Warrah would soon disappear, and within a few decades the naturalist’s prediction became an unfortunate reality.

Warrah model at the Historic Dockyard Museum
The Warrah, accompanied by Darwin’s prescient quote

In 2013, a scientific paper claimed the Warrah had traveled to the Falklands over an ice bridge which had connected the archipelago to the mainland.  If the Warrah did not arrive over an ice bridge, then perhaps it was brought on canoes by native peoples.  Though such theories had been previously rejected, new research suggests that indigenous people may have reached the Falklands prior to the arrival of Europeans, but did not stay.  Moreover, researchers suggest a mutually beneficial relationship between the Warrah and indigenous peoples.

Warrah skull
Map of the disappearing Warrah, which went extinct in 1876.

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