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Origins and antiquity of the island fox (Urocyon littoralis) on California's Channel Islands

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Torben C. Rick
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. 20013-7012, USA
Jon M. Erlandson
Affiliation:
Museum of Natural and Cultural History, University of Oregon, Eugene 97403-1224, USA Department of Anthropology, University of Oregon, Eugene, OR 97403-1218, USA
René L. Vellanoweth
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, California State University, Los Angeles, CA 90032, USA
Todd J. Braje
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology, Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA 95521, USA
Paul W. Collins
Affiliation:
Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, Santa Barbara, CA 93105, USA
Daniel A. Guthrie
Affiliation:
Joint Science Department, Claremont Colleges, Claremont, CA 91711-5916, USA
Thomas W. Stafford Jr.
Affiliation:
Stafford Research, Inc., 200 Acadia Avenue, Lafayette, CO 80026, USA
Corresponding
E-mail address:

Abstract

The island fox (Urocyon littoralis) is one of few reportedly endemic terrestrial mammals on California's Channel Islands. Questions remain about how and when foxes first colonized the islands, with researchers speculating on a natural, human-assisted, or combined dispersal during the late Pleistocene and/or Holocene. A natural dispersal of foxes to the northern Channel Islands has been supported by reports of a few fox bones from late Pleistocene paleontological localities. Direct AMS 14C dating of these “fossil” fox bones produced dates ranging from ∼ 6400 to 200 cal yr BP, however, postdating human colonization of the islands by several millennia. Although one of these specimens is the earliest securely dated fox from the islands, these new data support the hypothesis that Native Americans introduced foxes to all the Channel Islands in the early to middle Holocene. However, a natural dispersal for the original island colonization cannot be ruled out until further paleontological, archaeological, and genetic studies (especially aDNA [ancient DNA]) are conducted.

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Articles
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University of Washington

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Origins and antiquity of the island fox (Urocyon littoralis) on California's Channel Islands
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