They look similar and have similar actions; as a result, since a long time they have been regarded as the same species. However, now scientists are saying that when it comes to the golden jackals living in the Europe, Asia, Middle East, and Arica, appearance can be quite deceiving.
According to scientists, after conducting thorough genetic analysis of the animals they have come to the conclusion that these populations consist of two absolutely distinct species. They have further informed that the ones roaming around in Africa are different from those in other parts of the world.
The scientific name of golden jackals is Canis aureus. Based on the above mentioned discovery, the researchers are saying that the ones living in Africa should be renamed as Canis anthus or African golden wolves.
Evolutionary and conservation geneticist Klaus-Peter Koepfli said that the results of the genetic analyses have shown that Eurasian and African golden jackals have differences in all genetic markers tested by scientists, which include data collected from their whole genomes. According to him, these dissimilarities show that the two groups have independently evolving lineages. Koepfli is currently associated with Washington-based Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.
Koepfli added that the African population appears to possess more similarity with the coyotes and the gray wolves.
This finding has increased the number of living species in the mammalian family known as Canidae. For those who don’t know: Canidae is a mammalian family, of which dogs, foxes, jackals, wolves and coyotes are members. Prior to this discovery, Canidae had 35 species as members. The addition of Canis anthus has pushed the number to 36.
The African golden wolves are found in East and North Africa. Scientists are saying that the Middle East is also possibly home to some. The European golden jackals, on the other hand, are found in southern Europe, Asia and some parts of the Middle East. In Asia, the species is more common in south and south east of the continent.
Koepfli added that there’s no evidence of existence of the Eurasian golden jackal or Canis aureus in any part of continental Africa.
However, there’s significant similarity in the appearances and habits of the two species. Both have similar body size, head shape, fur and teeth. Both are omnivorous and eat a range of food from fruits to small mammals.