Scientists have discovered that the golden jackal from East Africa is an entirely different species from the golden jackal that live in Eurasia. This discovery represents the newest canid species which was identified in over 150 years. The paper was published in the journal Current Biology.
The researchers reached this conclusion after conducting a comprehensive genetic analysis. Conservation and evolutionary geneticist Klaus-Peter Koepfli from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington said that the two lineages are not related at all. According to him the African golden jackal is more closely related to the population of gray wolves and coyotes. Koepfli also explained:
Our results showed that African and Eurasian golden jackals were distinct across all the genetic markers we tested, including data from whole genomes, suggesting these are independently evolving lineages.”
The scientific name of the golden jackal is Canis aureus. With this new discovery the animals was renamed in Africa Canis anthus, meaning the African golden wolf. These findings seem to increase the number of species which are part of the Canidae family. This is a mammalian family which included jackals, coyotes, dogs, wolves and foxes.
The researchers involved in the study have discovered that the African golden jackal lineage separated from the lineage which coyotes and gray wolves were part of nearly 1.3 million years ago. As far as the Eurasian golden jackal lineage is concerned it split approximately 600.000 years ago.
These two species look quite similar when it comes to body size and shape, head shape, fur color and teeth. They are omnivorous and can eat a large variety of food including fruits and tiny mammals. They are neither pretentious when it comes to habitat: they can thrive in both tropical forests in southeast Asia and tin dry savannas across Africa.
The African golden wolf lives in east and north Africa and some of them can even be found in the Middle East. On the other hand the Eurasian golden jackal lives from southern Europe to the Middle East. It can be found across southern Asia all the way to the edge in Vietnam.
According to Koepfli what should be learned from this study is the fact that hidden biodiversity can be found even when one deals with widespread species such as the golden jackal.
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