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, 6 (1), e16385

The Cryptic African Wolf: Canis Aureus Lupaster Is Not a Golden Jackal and Is Not Endemic to Egypt


The Cryptic African Wolf: Canis Aureus Lupaster Is Not a Golden Jackal and Is Not Endemic to Egypt

Eli Knispel Rueness et al. PLoS One.


The Egyptian jackal (Canis aureus lupaster) has hitherto been considered a large, rare subspecies of the golden jackal (C. aureus). It has maintained its taxonomical status to date, despite studies demonstrating morphological similarities to the grey wolf (C. lupus). We have analyzed 2055 bp of mitochondrial DNA from C. a. lupaster and investigated the similarity to C. aureus and C. lupus. Through phylogenetic comparison with all wild wolf-like canids (based on 726 bp of the Cytochrome b gene) we conclusively (100% bootstrap support) place the Egyptian jackal within the grey wolf species complex, together with the Holarctic wolf, the Indian wolf and the Himalayan wolf. Like the two latter taxa, C. a. lupaster seems to represent an ancient wolf lineage which most likely colonized Africa prior to the northern hemisphere radiation. We thus refer to C. a. lupaster as the African wolf. Furthermore, we have detected C. a. lupaster individuals at two localities in the Ethiopian highlands, extending the distribution by at least 2,500 km southeast. The only grey wolf species to inhabit the African continent is a cryptic species for which the conservation status urgently needs assessment.

Conflict of interest statement

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Figure 1
Figure 1. Map of distribution ranges and samples.
The distribution area of the golden jackal in Africa and Eurasia is shaded dark grey. The samples analysed are shown as symbols: squares  =  C.a. lupaster and stars  =  C. aureus. The number next to the symbols equals the number of samples from each site. The approximate border of the distribution areas of C. lupus pallipes and C. lupus chanco are delineated by black and slashed lines respectively.
Figure 2
Figure 2. Phylogenetic tree displaying the relationship among all wild wolf-like canids.
Phylogeny (Maximum Likelihood) of wolf-like canids based on 726 bp of the Cyt b gene. Bootstrap values (>50%) from 10,000 replicates are given next to the branches, NJ, ML. * This sequence of C. aureus which was published by Wayne et al. consists of two fragments whereof the first (394 bp bp) show most resemblance to the side-striped jackal while the second (332 bp) differ by 6 point mutations compared to the Eurasian golden jackal.
Figure 3
Figure 3. Phylogeny (NJ) based on 317 bp of the mtDNA D-loop region.
Bootstrap values (>50%) from 10,000 replicates are given next to the branches. The grey wolf species complex forms a monophyletic group (shaded in light grey), a subgroup consisting of four taxa representing the Holarctic wolf is shaded in dark grey.

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