From Wikipedia, With the Caption, Canis aureus. The golden jackal is more closely related to wolves and coyotes than it is to other jackal species
A recent news item came up concerning the relatedness of Golden Jackals to the Eurasian Gray Wolves and here is one version of the press release:
Africa’s Lone Wolf: New Species Found in Ethiopia
During a field expedition to Ethiopia, a team of scientists noticed something odd: The golden jackals there looked more slender with a whiter coat than they do elsewhere. Now, genetic analyses suggest these oddities are not jackals at all but instead more closely related to gray wolves.
In fact, until now these “highland jackals” were referred to as Egyptian jackals (Canis aureus lupaster), and had long been considered a rare subspecies to the golden jackal (C. aureus).
With new genetic evidence in hand, the team suggested the animal be called the African wolf to reflect its true identity.
“It seems as if the Egyptian jackal is urgently set for a name change,” said study researcher Claudio Sillero of Oxford University’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU). “And its unique status as the only member of the gray wolf complex in Africa suggests that it should be re-named ‘the African wolf,’” said Sillero, who has worked in Ethiopia for more than two decades.
(The gray wolf population extends to the Sinai Peninsula but doesn’t exist on mainland Africa.)
“We originally set out to study the jackals in Northern Ethiopia, and discovered this new species by chance through the genetic analyses,” said study team member Nils Christian Stenseth, a research professor and chairman of the Center forEcological and Evolutionary Synthesis at the University of Oslo in Norway.
Stenseth, Sillero and their colleagues, including scientists from Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia, analyzed the DNA from the feces of five individuals of the mysterious animal, one of which they had filmed defecating so they could link for certain this creature with its DNA sample. They got another tissue sample, for DNA analysis, from a road kill in Arsi in southeast Ethiopia. And DNA samples were also obtained from golden jackals in Serbia.
The DNA comparisons showed C. a. lupaster is more similar to the gray wolves than to golden jackals.
The work also suggested gray wolves reached Africa around 3 million years ago before spreading throughout the Northern Hemisphere.
“Our findings suggest that the colonization of Africa by the ancestral stock of gray wolves took place about 3 million years ago and is today embodied in the animal that has hitherto been called the Egyptian jackal,” Stenseth told LiveScience.
The new wolf is a relative of the Holarctic gray wolf, which lives in northern Europe and northern Asia, the Indian wolf and the Himalayan wolf.
The findings add to our knowledge about the so-called Afroalpine fauna, an assemblage of species with African and Eurasian ancestry that evolved in the relative isolation of the highlands of the Horn of Africa.
“A wolf in Africa is not only important conservation news, but raises fascinating biological questions about how the new African wolf evolved and lived alongside not only the real golden jackals but also the vanishingly rare Ethiopian wolf, which is a very different species with which the new discovery should not be confused,” said study team member David Macdonald, director of Oxford University’s WildCRU.
Rare Ethiopian wolves split off from the gray wolves even earlier than the newly discovered African wolf.
Currently, the golden jackal is listed as a species of least concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which means the animal doesn’t fit into any of the “endangered” or “threatened” categories.
“In Ethiopia, the golden jackals, which presently includes the cryptic African wolves, are systematically persecuted because of their threat to livestock,” the researchers write. Even so and even though the Egyptian jackal is supposedly extremely rare, it is not protected, they add.
To get an idea of the true population numbers and distribution, the team said a thorough survey is needed in both Ethiopia and adjacent countries. Stenseth and his colleagues hope to continue their research with a study of the animal’s ecology – how it interacts with other animals and its environment.
You can follow LiveScience managing editor Jeanna Bryner on Twitter @jeannabryner.
Ranges of The different species of "Jackals"
Now this is important to me because I had been a longstanding adherant of the theory that the domesticated dog came Out Of Africa along with early Homo sapiens and that the earliest dogs had some sort of relationship to the Golden Jackals. The Golden Jackals seem to have been the forerunners to wolves and coyotes in general, and this new Highlands wolf species seems to be part of the ancestral wolf population which had not left Africa yet.
Dogs have ancient origins dating back perhaps 100,000 years or more -- much older than scientists had thought -- UCLA scientists and colleagues found.
While many scientists believed, based on archaeological records, that domestic dogs dated back only 14,000 years, molecular genetic techniques reported in the June 13  issue of the journal Science show that man's best friend is much older. The new research also confirms that dogs evolved from wolves.
"Our data show that the origin of dogs seems to be much more ancient than indicated in the archaeological record," said Robert K. Wayne, UCLA associate professor of biology. "The origin of dogs dates well before the development of agricultural population centers that occurred approximately 10,000 to 14,000 years ago, and goes back to hunter-gatherer societies. While many people think a high level of sophistication was required to domesticate wild mammals, our data imply that very primitive societies may have had domestic animals."
Scientists believe from archaeological records that many domestic animals, including cats and cattle, originated within the last 14,000 years. Cats may have been domesticated as recently as 7,000 years ago, Wayne said.
Wayne noted that his techniques do not enable exact dates to be determined for dogs. "Because of the extrapolation involved in the calculations, it's possible that the first dog dates back 60,000 years, or perhaps more than 100,000 years," he said.
"It is possible that the first dog dates back 60,000,
or perhaps more than 100,000 years...."
For the research, Wayne and his colleagues studied DNA sequences from 140 dogs representing 67 breeds -- including golden retrievers, German shepherds, collies, St. Bernards, poodles, bulldogs, Irish setters, rottweilers, English sheepdogs, fox terriers and chow chows. They also analyzed 162 wolves from the United States, Canada, Mexico, Russia, China, India, Italy, Portugal, Spain, France, Sweden, Saudi Arabia, Israel and other countries, as well as jackals and coyotes.
The scientists analyzed DNA sequences from the control region of the mitochondrial genome -- a region with a high mutation rate. They were surprised by the great diversity of DNA sequences they found within dogs.
"We expected to find DNA sequences in dogs that were closely related to those in wolves, perhaps even indistinguishable from those in wolves," Wayne said. "We expected to find a few different sequences in dogs; instead, we found 26.
"We initially suspected the amount of genetic diversity in the marker we analyzed would be very low because the only way that diversity accumulates is through DNA mutations over time, and 14,000 years is not enough time for many mutations to appear.
"We have found that the origin of dogs is much older than previously believed because the genetic diversity within dogs is much greater than one would find if their origin were as recent as 14,000 years ago," Wayne added. "Given the amount of genetic diversity that we found, we can calculate how long it should have taken to achieve this diversity if mutations alone were driving the process. Our calculations suggest the first domestic dog might be as old as 100,000 years or older."
While some scientists thought that dogs evolved from jackals or coyotes, Wayne and his colleagues found no evidence to support that view.
News release [no longer online]:
Date: June 10, 1997 Contact: Stuart Wolpert, UCLA
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Telephone: 310-206-0511
Science article: http://www.idir.net/~wolf2dog/wayne1.htm