A prevalent concern in the world of ecology is that species can be killed off due to non-natural causes, mainly as a result of the human population’s negative effect. This, at least, has been a major concern for wolf species as populations continue to decline. But even so, many arguments have been spurred between animal advocates and environmentalists, about whether or not the population is actually decreasing and as such, research continues to be conducted on the species.
The Missing Wolf Species
Interestingly, in a case of mistaken identity, new research suggests that the golden jackal of Africa is actually more closely related to a wolf species.
The research was published in the scientific journal, Current Biology. According to the study, certain samples of golden jackal DNA matched more closely to grey wolves than to the DNA of jackals in the area, which was curious for scientists as they do not share many physical similarities. Furthermore, there are no grey wolves in Africa.
Continuing to Study the Golden Jackal
Up until this point, science has not paid much attention to the jackal, recognizing only three species: the black-backed jackal, the side-striped jackal, and the golden jackal, all of which are endemic to Africa (although Golden jackals also live in Eurasia). Intrigued by this finding, further testing was conducted by researchers in order to determine how this was possible – how wolves could have relatives there.
The commonality caused researchers to reevaluate what they thought they already knew about the golden jackal. Although, the morphological similarities are very apparent between the different varieties of jackals, the DNA is essentially different.
One of the authors behind the research, Klaus Koepfli, stated that this new finding was the first ‘new’ species discovery in the last latter half of a 200 year span. After this initial finding, researchers have now dubbed the new species the “Golden Wolf”, the missing wolf species in Africa. The event makes you wonder what other species may have been categorized incorrectly.