Recent findings have discovered that the golden jackal is now the golden wolf and, while that may be a potentially neat superhero name, it’s scientific fact. Scientists have gathered genetic data and performed scrutinizing analysis to find that what was once just one species is actually now two.
The golden jackals have previously been thought to be part of the Canid tree, with several specimens found across parts of Africa, Europe and Asia. However, scientists discovered that the African counterpart has such insignificant genetic similarities with the rest, that it’s an entirely new breed, which is closer to the grey wolf than coyotes.
African and Eurasian golden jackals rated differently in all the genetic markers used, according to Klaus-Peter Koepfli, an evolutionary geneticist at Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. In fact, the two are not even closely related in spite of their very similar aspect, so all assumptions until this point had been severely wrong.
Further data analysis suggested that the African golden jackal might be an entirely new species of its own after independently evolving and splitting from grey wolves around 1.3 million years ago. The Eurasian golden jackal separated themselves from wolves 600,000 years earlier, and has so far remained unseen across the African continent, leaving researchers to believe they have very little in common.
At least, their difference remain genetic as their appearance is sure to make mistaking one for the other quite easy. They look and act alike, with similar size in body, teeth and colored fur. However, researchers from United States, Russia and other countries who studied mitochondrial, microsatellite and genomic data from both specimens have declared a definite difference.
When compared to the Ethiopian wolves or grey wolves found in Africa, the African golden jackal displayed remarkable similarities. It now accounts as the first species of Canid discovered in the last 150 years, marking the genetically similar group with 36 known species instead of the 35 generally represented by dogs, wolves, foxes and coyotes.
Evolutionary geneticist, Klaus-Peter Koepfli, suggested that its name be changed from Canis aureus (the golden jackal) to Canis anthus (the golden wolf). The golden wolf can be found in the north and east of Africa while the golden jackal commonly roams about the forests from southern Europe, the Middle East and southern Asia. It’s an omnivorous species, feeding on both meat and fruits.
Koepfli claims that the discovery is solid proof that even well known species could yet be split into further sub-species or even entirely different ones through proper DNA analysis which could pave the way into hidden biodiversity.
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