New research reveals that although it looks remarkably similar to the Eurasian golden jackal, the African golden jackal isn’t a jackal at all. The golden jackal of Africa (Canis aureus) has long been considered a conspecific of jackals distributed throughout Eurasia, with the nearest source populations in the Middle East. However, two recent reports found that mitochondrial haplotypes of some African golden jackals aligned more closely to gray wolves (Canis lupus) which is surprising given the absence of gray wolves in Africa and the phenotypic divergence between the two species. To test the distinct-species hypothesis and understand the evolutionary history that would account for this puzzling result, researchers analyzed extensive genomic data and results suggest that populations of golden jackals from Africa and Eurasia represent distinct monophyletic lineages separated for more than one million years!
They named the newly recognized species the African golden wolf, bringing the overall biodiversity of the Canidae family from 35 living species to 36.