AboutZoos, Since 2008


Egypt­ian jackal appears to be new species of wolf

pub­lished 24 August 2011 | mod­i­fied 20 Feb­ru­ary 2011

Sci­en­tists have dis­cov­ered a new species of wolf liv­ing in Africa. Of course, it is not really ‘new’. It was just wait­ing for its DNA to be dis­cov­ered by mod­ern genetic tech­niques. The strenght of these tech­niques reveals hid­den bio­di­ver­sity. Until recently the Egypt­ian jackal (Canis aureus lupaster) was con­sid­ered a large, rare sub­species of the golden jackal (C. aureus).

Although stud­ies demon­strated mor­pho­log­i­cal sim­i­lar­i­ties to the grey wolf (C. lupus), it has main­tained its tax­o­nom­i­cal sta­tus to date. How­ever, a research team led by Dr Eli Rue­ness, using mod­ern genetic tech­niques, proved oth­er­wise. The mys­te­ri­ous animal’s DNA showed that the Egypt­ian jackal is not a sub-​species of jackal but a grey wolf. The researchers place the Egypt­ian jackal within the grey wolf species com­plex, together with the Hol­arc­tic wolf, the Indian wolf and the Himalayan wolf. The ‘new’ wolf species seems to rep­re­sent an ancient wolf lin­eage which most likely col­o­nized Africa prior to the north­ern hemi­sphere radi­a­tion. There­fore, and because of its unique sta­tus as the only mem­ber of the grey wolf com­plex in Africa the researchers sug­gest that it should be re-​named ‘the African wolf’. Apart from this the ‘new’ species con­ser­va­tion sta­tus should be assessed. Though the golden jackal is regarded by the IUCN as not threat­ened (a species of least con­cern), it might be dif­fer­ent for the newly dis­cov­ered African wolf, which may be much rarer.

The team also found genet­i­cally very sim­i­lar spec­i­mens to this new wolf in the high­lands of Ethiopia, 2,500 km from Egypt, sug­gest­ing that the new species is not just found in Egypt. Nev­er­the­less it may not be con­fused with the rare Ethiopian wolves, which them­selves are a recent immi­grant to Africa, and split off from the grey wolf com­plex even ear­lier than the newly dis­cov­ered African wolf. (Source: PloS-​one, 26.01.2011)

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