Despite looking very much alike, the golden jackals that live and East Africa belong to a different species than the ones that live in Eurasia, according to a new study.
After conducting DNA analysis, the biologists discovered that the East African golden jackals area actually wolves. This means that the Canidae family has gotten bigger with one more species. Currently, the Canidae family includes animals like wolves, dogs, jackals and foxes, and they welcomed a new species among them, which increased the number of species from 35 to 36.
Klaus-Peter Koepfli, a scientist at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, D.C. and one of the lead investigators of the study, explained that this is the first time a new species of canid is discovered in Africa in more than 150 years.
The new research was led by Koepfli and his colleague, an ecology professor and evolutionary biologist at the UCLA College. They said they were inspired by some recent reports which suggested that the golden jackal that lives on African land is actually a subspecies of the gray wolf. The studies they conducted were based on some mitochondrial DNA analysis, according to the biologists.
In order to expand and better analyzed the DNA samples, the scientists worked on the samples collected from golden jackals more than twenty years ago in Kenya. The samples have been kept in the lab freezers for two decades. The two researchers collaborated with other scientists from all over the world, including countries like China, Russia, South Africa, Portugal, Israel and Finland. These scientists provided them with DNA samples taken from golden jackals that live in other African and Eurasian countries. After analyzing the DNA samples and comparing them with their own, the biologists were surprised by the results. Apparently, the animals had a different evolutionary past and what was believed to be a golden jackal was actually a species of wolf.
The researchers wrote that they were very surprised to find out that the small, golden jackal that lives in eastern Africa is actually a new species closely related to the gray wolf that lives in North and East Africa.
For now, the biologists have named the new species of canid the African golden wolf. They believe the African golden jackal was mistaken with the Eurasian one because they look very much alike.
The researchers detailed their findings in the journal Current Biology.
Image Source: Guardian