More info on the African wolf

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La Striata
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More info on the African wolf

Post by La Striata » Wed Aug 22, 2012 8:48 am

Remember how it was discovered last year that the grey wolf does in fact live in Ethiopia/Eritrea? Turns out their range is even more extensive than anticipated:

Abstract

"The recent discovery of a lineage of gray wolf in North-East Africa suggests the presence of a cryptic canid on the continent, the African wolf Canis lupus lupaster. We analyzed the mtDNA diversity (cytochrome b and control region) of a series of African Canis including wolf-like animals from North and West Africa. Our objectives were to assess the actual range of C. l. lupaster, to further estimate the genetic characteristics and demographic history of its lineage, and to question its taxonomic delineation from the golden jackal C. aureus, with which it has been considered synonymous. We confirmed the existence of four distinct lineages within the gray wolf, including C. lupus/familiaris (Holarctic wolves and dogs), C. l. pallipes, C. l. chanco and C. l. lupaster. Taxonomic assignment procedures identified wolf-like individuals from Algeria, Mali and Senegal, as belonging to C. l. lupaster, expanding its known distribution c. 6,000 km to the west. We estimated that the African wolf lineage (i) had the highest level of genetic diversity within C. lupus, (ii) coalesced during the Late Pleistocene, contemporaneously with Holarctic wolves and dogs, and (iii) had an effective population size of c. 80,000 females. Our results suggest that the African wolf is a relatively ancient gray wolf lineage with a fairly large, past effective population size, as also suggested by the Pleistocene fossil record. Unique field observations in Senegal allowed us to provide a morphological and behavioral diagnosis of the African wolf that clearly distinguished it from the sympatric golden jackal. However, the detection of C. l. lupaster mtDNA haplotypes in C. aureus from Senegal brings the delineation between the African wolf and the golden jackal into question. In terms of conservation, it appears urgent to further characterize the status of the African wolf with regard to the African golden jackal."

Source: Gaubert P, Bloch C, Benyacoub S, Abdelhamid A, Pagani P, et al. (2012) Reviving the African Wolf Canis lupus lupaster in North and West Africa: A Mitochondrial Lineage Ranging More than 6,000 km Wide. PLoS ONE 7(8)
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Ad ... ne.0042740


The study also shows that African wolves have been hybridizing in some areas with golden jackals, for quite some time now. So there you have it: wolves are not simply stragglers eking out a living in Eritrea, they are fully indigenous animals with a vast range. This of course raises a plethora of questions:

1) How do wolves interact with lions, leopards, spotted hyenas and other large African predators? What niche do they fill? Are they big/small game hunters, or scavengers?
2) Is there any folklore among indigenous people of the area indicating that they already knew there was a difference between wolves and jackals?
3) How do they differ in behaviour from their Eurasian and American cousins?
4) As they are the oldest and most genetically diverse wolf lineage, does that mean that the wolf evolved in Africa?
I cannot see that wolves are in any way nobler in character than hyenas- Frederick Selous

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