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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Earliest Island Fox Remains on the Southern Channel Islands: Evidence from San Nicolas Island, California


The island fox Urocyon littoralis, a diminutive cousin of the mainland gray fox U. cinereoargenteus, occurs on six of the eight California Channel Islands. For years, researchers have reported finding the remains of these animals in archaeological sites. Biogeographic studies have tried to determine the evolutionary relationships of island foxes and the nature and timing of their dispersal to each of the islands. These data, along with the fossil and archaeological records, place them on the northern Channel Islands about 16,000 B.P. and on the southern Channel Islands at about 3,800 B.P. Recent archaeological excavations on San Nicolas Island recovered the remains of an island fox that dates to about 5,200 B.P. This find contributes to our current understanding of island fox colonization of the southern Channel Islands.

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