A new study shows the golden jackals of Africa and Eurasia are two distantly related species. Although they look and act almost the same, DNA tests shows they are in fact two different species - one is a new species of wolf!
For decades the golden jackal and other similar species have been mistaken for the jackal species when under the surface they are in fact not jackal but a species of wolf. The new discovery shows the biggest distinction between the two is the size of the skull and the strength of the teeth.
The new species is called the African golden wolf (canis anthus) which has a wider skull; stronger teeth and is larger in size compared to its distant cousin the golden jackal. According to research conducted over a period of time, the golden wolf is found in North and East Africa as well as in the Middle East whereas the golden jackal is found in Southern Europe to the Middle East and across Southern Asia.
For ages scientists had wondered if the golden jackal was perhaps a subspecies of the gray wolf, and so they examined 38 different genetic markers from 128 canid specimens which included jackals from Africa and Eurasia, African wolves and even domestic dogs! From their findings they can confirm the African and Eurasian golden jackals are two different species and that the golden jackal is not a subspecies of the gray wolf. The last ancestor shared between the gray wolf and golden jackal was over 1 million years ago.
Africa is now home to 3 different species of wolf; the gray wolf, the Ethiopian wolf and now the African golden wolf.
Read more about it on National Geographic http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2015/07/150730-jackals-wolves-evolution-new-species-animals-africa/