The mystery surrounding the origin of a wolflike predator that once lived near Antarctica — a puzzle that stumped even Charles Darwin — has now been solved, researchers say.
The extinct carnivore apparently made its way to islands hundreds of miles from the nearest continent by crossing the frozen sea thousands of years ago, scientists explained.
The reddish coyote-sized Falkland Islands wolf was the only mammal native to the Falkland Islands far off the east coast of Argentina. The foxlike predator lived on seals, penguins and sea birds until hunters exterminated it in 1876.
The existence of the Falklands wolf perplexed Darwin when he first encountered it in 1834. “How did this great big carnivore arrive to a set of islands 460 kilometers (285 miles) from the nearest mainland when no other terrestrial mammal did?” asked researcher Alan Cooper, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Adelaide in Australia. “If it came by a land bridge, then the islands should’ve been covered with rodents as well, since South America is rodent central.”…