According to an international study published in the journal Current Biology the African golden jackal may be different than the other golden jackals in Europe. After comparing this species to the gray wolf researchers have found out that the African golden jackal is in fact a distinct wolf species.
The golden jackal can be found in Eurasia and East Africa and they are actually two different species. In Africa we can find the Ethiopian and the gray wolf as well. Also called the African golden wolf the golden jackal is the first new species of canid discovered in 150 years. Canid represents a group which contains jackals, wolves and coyotes. Eurasian animals are a bit smaller than African ones: they have weaker teeth and a tinier skull.
Researchers from multiple countries such as Russia and United States conducted an in-depth analysis of the species’ DNA and found out that for millennia they have evolved separately. In order to compare the species they analyzed microsatellite, genomic and mitochondrial sequence data.
Biologist Klaus-Peter Koepfli from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Front Royal, Virginia was the one who proposed replacing the name of the African golden jackal with the African golden wolf (Canis anthus). He confessed that he was very surprised when he learned that they are in fact dealing with distinct species.
Koepfli said that what should be learned from this study is the fact that scientists can discover hidden biodiversity even in the case of animal species that are widespread and well-known. In addition discoveries of this type are possible by employing data sampled from whole genomes. He further added:
Our mitochondrial DNA and nuclear DNA phylogenies are quite different, but they’re consistent in showing that these two golden jackal lineages are definitely not each other’s closest relatives.”
The question of whether the golden jackal is not a single species is a long-standing one. Philippe Gaubert, a biologist from the University of Montpellier in France published in 2012 a study in which he claimed that the African golden jackal is actually a subspecies of fray wolf and is thus separate from the Eurasian jackal.
Regarding this study Gaubert says that it is high-quality work, but he stands by his original paper since he is not yet convinced that the African golden jackal is an entirely new species. He concluded that more work needs to be conducted.
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