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Dusicyon (Warrah)

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dusicyon

Dusicyon (John Keulemans)

Name:

Dusicyon (Greek for "foolish dog"); pronounced DO-sih-SIGH-on; also known as the Warrah

Habitat:

Falkland Islands

Historical Epoch:

Pleistocene-Modern (2 million-100 years ago)

Size and Weight:

About 3 feet long and 25 pounds

Diet:

Birds, insects and shellfish

Distinguishing Characteristics:

Small size; strange diet

About Dusicyon (Warrah):

Dusicyon, also known as the Warrah, is one of the most fascinating (and most obscure) animals to have gone extinct in modern times, certainly not anywhere as well-known as the Dodo. Not only was Dusicyon the only prehistoric dog to live on the Falkland Islands (a few hundred miles off the coast of Argentina), but it was the only mammal, period--meaning it preyed not on cats, rats or pigs, but birds, insects, and possibly even shellfish that washed up along the shore. Exactly how Dusicyon wound up on the Falklands is a bit of a mystery; the most likely scenario is that it hitched a ride with early human visitors from South America thousands of years ago.

Dusicyon earned its amusing name--Greek for "foolish dog"--because, like many animals restricted to island habitats, it didn't know enough to be afraid of the second wave of human settlers to the Falklands during the 17th century. The problem was, these settlers arrived with the intention of herding sheep, and thus felt compelled to hunt Dusicyon to extinction (the usual method: luring it near with a tasty piece of meat, and then clubbing it to death when it took the bait). The last Dusicyon individuals expired in 1876, only a few years after Charles Darwin had the opportunity to learn about--and be puzzled by--their existence.

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