Thursday, January 27, 2011

Study- Egypt's Jackal is Actually a Wolf

The African wolf, originally thought to be a jackal subspecies

When most people think of the jackal and Egypt, what comes to their mind is Anubis. This jackal-headed deity had been highly revered during the ancient times as a god of mummification. This can be seen in illustrations depicting the god placing his hands over a coffin. The idea probably stems from the fact that jackals would be seen prowling around cemeteries at night, often stepping on graves. It is no doubt that Egypt was one of the places in the world deeply associated with these cunning scavengers. Its dry and arid landscape makes an ideal jackal habitat. However, recent genetic research from PLoS ONE has found that the Egyptian jackal is not a subspecies of the common and widely-distributed golden jackal. Instead, it turns out to be a member of the gray wolf clan. This wolf, dubbed by researchers as the African wolf, appears to be closely related to the Himalayan wolf. The research also pointed to the early origin of this unique wolf. Researchers say that the animal is older than the wolves of the northern hemispheres. According to the study, the Indian wolf, Himalayan wolf, and the African wolf broke off from the gray wolf before it moved up north to Europe, northern Asia, and America. This process led to a further subdividing into different subspecies. Currently, the study has not made any recommendation whether this wolf should be considered a new species or another gray wolf subspecies. There is still a continuation in debate over a distinction between the species and subspecies of wolves.

This is indeed a very unique and interesting discovery. But it is also a discovery which raises several questions. If Egypt's jackal turned out to be a member of the wolf family, could it have been this particular animal that was worshiped as the descendant of Anubis? This creature, in my opinion, is one of the animals whose ancestors must have migrated either from Europe to the north or the Near East. These creatures include the Atlas bear, which had long since became extinct in North Africa. The only ones that are still flourishing are the Barbary stag, the wild boar, and even the red fox. The discovery of the African wolf is truly a big moment for wildlife experts, researchers, and scientists worldwide. But in its native home, it is persecuted for livestock predation just like other wolves and jackals. I personally feel that a creature like this should be protected at all costs for further study. That way, scientists will learn more about this animal and what roles it plays in Egypt's ecosystems.

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