From: Jeremy Hance, MONGABAY.COM, More from this Affiliate
Published January 27, 2011 08:58 AM

Egyptian jackal is actually ancient wolf

The Egyptian jackal, which may have been the inspiration for the Egyptian god Anubis, is actually not a jackal at all but a member of the wolf family. New genetic research in the open-access journal PLoS ONE finds that the Egyptian jackal is Africa's only member of the gray wolf family. The new wolf, dubbed by researchers as the African wolf, is most closely related to the Himalayan wolf.

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"We could hardly believe our own eyes when we found wolf DNA that did not match anything in GenBank," lead author, Dr Eli Rueness, said in a press release. GenBank is an open-access nucleotide database.

The genetic data also points to an early origin for the Egyptian jackal/African wolf. In fact, researchers believe the animal is older than well-known wolves of the northern hemisphere. According to the study, Indian, Himalayan, and the new African wolf, broke off from the gray wolf before it moved north, colonizing Europe, northern Asia, and the Americas, further subdividing into different subspecies. Ethiopian wolves, which are a unique species of canids, are older still.

The study does not appear to make a recommendation whether or not this new wolf should be considered a unique species in its own right or another subspecies of the grey wolf (Canis lupus). Currently, gray wolf subspecies number in the thirties, and distinction between species and subspecies continues to be debated for a number of them.

Article continues: http://news.mongabay.com/2011/0126-hance_africanwolf.html

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