Thanks to everyone for their comments on the previous article about island-endemic otters and canids. I was going to add a brief response to the comments section, but eventually the comments reached the length you see here, hence my decision to turn them into a brief article…
Yes, I should at least have mentioned Darwin’s fox Pseudalopex fulvipes, originally described from Chiloé Island off the coast of southern Chile, and the endemic Cuban canids Cubacyon transversidens and Indocyon caribensis, both of which are now extinct. First collected by Charles Darwin in 1834 and regarded as a distinct species when named in 1837, Darwin’s fox was later sunk into the synonymy of the Grey zorro P. griseus [shown in image below] and not regarded as a distinct taxonomic entity, nor one deserving of conservation priority. However, Darwin’s fox and the Grey zorro are morphologically quite different (Darwin’s fox is darker, has shorter legs, a broader, shorter skull, smaller auditory bullae, a more robust dentition and also differs from the Grey zorro in jaw shape and its style of premolar occlusion), and DNA work also confirms that it should be regarded as a distinct species (Yahnke et al. 1996). As Jerzy noted in the previous article, it is not a true island endemic, as Medel et al. (1990) reported its discovery at Nahuelbuta National Park on the Chilean mainland. This mainland population perhaps consists of about 70 individuals; about 250 are present on Chiloé Island [the Darwin’s fox image used above is borrowed from Lioncrusher’s Domain].
The temperate so-called Valdivian coastal forest inhabited by Darwin’s fox on both Chiloé Island and in Nahuelbuta National Park was more extensive during the Pleistocene (when Chiloé Island was connected to the Chilean mainland), suggesting that Darwin’s fox was previously more widespread. The possibility therefore exists that the species might still exist in remote parts of the remaining Valdivian forest, and Vilí et al. (2004) interviewed local people, used live traps and other techniques to test for its presence. They didn’t capture any foxes, but they did report evidence for a previously undiscovered population at Punta Chanchán in southern Chile.
Then there are the two endemic, recently extinct Cuban canids: Cubacyon transversidens Arredondo & Varona, 1974 and Indocyon caribensis Arredondo, 1981 [UPDATE: make sure you read the comments!!]. Cubacyon is poorly known and was described on the basis of a partial lower jaw (Arredondo & Varona 1974). Indocyon was first collected in 1956 but not named as a new species until 1981 (Arredondo 1981a): it was originally named Paracyon caribensis but Paracyon was used by Gray for the thylacine in 1827, so Arredondo (1981b) then coined the new generic name Indocyon. In contrast to Cubacyon, Indocyon is known from numerous specimens, but virtually all are lower jaw fragments. In fact we know very little about these canids: their jaw bones suggest that they were small, fox-sized forms (McKenna & Bell (1997) regarded both taxa as part of Canis), but their origins and extinction dates are mysterious. They’re both missing from various works on the extinct mammal fauna of Cuba, and from papers that discuss recently extinct island endemic carnivorans (Alcover & McMinn 1994). Presumably these canids were contemporaneous with Cuba’s fantastic fauna of giant rodents, diverse sloths, giant owls and huge, remarkable raptors. And what’s that you say? Giant raptors?
Holy crap it’s December 22nd. Oh well, so much for getting all that other stuff done before Christmas.
PS – some time yesterday, Tet Zoo had it’s 500000th hit: err, does anyone want to see if they can get it over one million? Let me know ?
Ref – –
Alcover, J. A. & McMinn, M. 1994. Predators of vertebrates on islands. BioScience 44, 12-18.
Arredondo, O. 1981a. Nuevo género y especie de mamífero (Carnivora: Canidae) del Holoceno de Cuba. Poeyana 218, 1-28.
– . 1981b. Reemplazo de Paracyon por Indocyon (Carnivora: Canidae). Misc. Zool. Acad. Cien. Cuba 12, 4.
– . & Varona, L. S. 1974. Nuevos género y especie de mamífero (Carnivora: Canidae) del cuaternario de Cuba. Poeyana 131, 1-12.
McKenna, M. C. & Bell, S. K. 1997. Classification of Mammals: Above the Species Level. Columbia University Press, New York.
Medel, R.G., Jimenez, J. E., Jaksic, A. M., Yanez, J. L. & Armesto, J. J. 1990. Discovery of a continental population of the rare Darwin Fox, Dusicyon fulvipes (Martin, 1839) in Chile. Biological Conservation 51, 71-77.
Vilí, C., Leonard, J. A., Iriarte, A., O’Brien, S. J., Johnson, W. E. & Wayne, R. K. 2004. Detecting the vanishing populations of the highly endangered Darwin’s fox, Pseudalopex fulvipes. Animal Conservation 7, 147-153.
Yahnke, C. J., Johnson, W. E., Geffen, E., Smith, E., Smith, D., Hertel, F., Roy, M. S., Bonacic, C. F., Fuller, T. K., Van Valkenburgh, B. & Wayne, R. K. 1996. Darwin’s fox: a distinct endangered species in a vanishing habitat. Conservation Biology 10, 366-375.