New species of black-backed jackal indicated through mitochondrial DNA analysis

cape vs east african

Cape jackal  (L) and East African black-backed jackal (R)

The molecular revolution in biology has caused a great deal of turmoil in the taxonomy of Canids. Long-time readers know that full-genome comparisons have recently found that the red wolf and Eastern wolf are hybrid between coyotes and wolves, and one implication of the recent origins of the coyote is that the coyote itself might be better classified as a subspecies of wolf. 

Mitochondrial DNA comparisons, though potentially erroneous in determining the exact time of divergence between species or subspecies, have also revealed that the “golden jackals” of Africa are much more closely related to wolves than Eurasian golden jackals.  Classifying African golden jackals is going to take more analysis of their genome, but they are either a species on their own or a subspecies of wolf. They have evolved in parallel with both the Eurasian golden jackal and the coyote.

We also know now that the red fox of the Old World is quite divergent from that of North America, enough that some authorities are reviving the old Vulpes fulva for the North American species.  Red foxes in the Eastern and Midwestern US are actually part of this endemic North American species and are not, as the folklore claimed, to be derived from seventeenth and eighteenth century introductions from England.

Recent mitochondrial DNA analysis also revealed that Eastern and Western gray foxes are perhaps separated by 500,000 years of evolution. 

So we’ve likely lost two wolf species in North America. The coyote’s validity is questionable. But we’ve gained either a wolf species or subspecies in Africa.  We have also potentially gained two species of fox in North America.

With all of these new findings in DNA studies, scientists are looking more and more closely at other long-established species.

Last week,  a study of the cytochrome b gene of black-backed and side-striped jackals revealed that these jackals, too, have some secrets.  Cytochrome b genes are part of the mitochondrial genome.

At one time these animals were considered part of Canis, but the current trend is to classify them in their own genus (Lupulella).* They are quite divergent from the rest of the wolf-like canids, much more so than dholes and African wild dogs are. If dholes and African wild dogs are in their own genera, then it makes sense that these two jackals should have their own genus name.

But if they are that divergent from the rest of Canis, then it’s very possible that there are other secrets, and this limited mtDNA study certainly raises some important questions.

The researchers found that the Cape subspecies and East African subspecies of the black-backed jackal (Lupulella mesomelas) actually diverged 2.5 million years ago.

I’ve always thought that there was a possibility of these two jackals being distinct species. The East African black-backed jackal has a shorter muzzle, comparatively larger ears, and usually lack the dense coat of the Cape jackal. The Cape jackal reminds me very much of Southwestern forms of coyote, with longer muzzle and thicker fur. What’s more is that the Cape jackal comes in a white and a golden phase that are not seen in the East African black-back.

If this deep divergence is confirmed in the full-genome or simple nuclear DNA studies that are very likely to be performed, then we likely have two species of what are called black-backed jackals now.

The researchers also found through this same analysis that the West African side-striped jackal diverged from the other two populations 1.4 million years ago, which certainly would raise some questions about its species status as well.

Again, we’re going to have to wait until full-genome analyses are performed, but I’ve always suspected that there are more than two species of endemic African jackal possessed some cryptic species.  I also have suspected that both side-striped jackals and black-backed jackals have hybridized a bit. This speculation could be revealed through the same full-genome or nuclear DNA studies that could examine the taxonomy within these supposed species.

Finally, the distribution of black-backed jackals is disjointed. The East African and Cape variants are separated by 800 miles. Several other small carnivorans have a similar distribution. The bat-eared fox and the aardwolf have disjointed distributions in which one population is in East Africa and the other in Southern Africa. It is very possible that similar deep genetic divergence exists within these species as well.

These potential cryptic species are worth investigating, and they certain put some of these “red wolf” controversies with in proper perspective.  If that 2.5 million-year divergence is upheld within the black-backed jackal populations, it really does become hard to justify the red wolf.  It is descended from two putative “species” that really aren’t that divergent at all by comparison.

 

 

 

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*A bit errata:  I initially called the new scientific name of the side-striped jackal Lupulela adustus, which is just a modification of Canis adustus.  Most of the literature I’m corrects the gender to Lupulella adusta.


Natural History

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A wall can’t stop this

irma

The most pernicious delusion of our species is that we are somehow above nature. Ever since we chipped away at flint to make spear points or domesticated fire to do our bidding, we’ve contriving hard against nature.

But for the past 10,000 years or so, we’ve been in the process of wall-building. Domesticating grain species is a wall built against hunger that could come from depleted game herds.

But grain grows best only in certain areas, and thus, we’ve become sedentary and possessive. We’ve become better fighters to defend our lands. We’ve built better tools of war. A gun is a finely crafted rock-chucker.  An ICBM with a hydrogen bomb is little more than a super rock-chucker that throws a very deadly rock.

When diseases have developed as a result of our great concentrations of population, we’ve created sewage systems. We’ve developed medicines to defend ourselves against disease.

We have made it so our average lifespans are at least double what they were just centuries ago. The planet now teems with us.

And we all want walls to protect us.

We’ve spent so much time designing and contriving new ways of security, new ways of comfort, that in these wealthier countries, we live almost as aliens upon our own planet.

In the United States, we live in a sort of fairy tale fortress. The nuclear triad and our advanced airforce mean that no enemies are going to get us.  Most of us live in cities, where the only predators we’ll ever know are those belonging to our species. Air conditioning and mosquito control make the South livable, and insulation and fine furnaces make the North’s winters pass in comfort.

We have power, but that power is finite.

Very simply, there is isn’t a wall we can build of any kind that can stop a hurricane. We cannot nuke our way out of this threat. We are totally at its mercy.

Harvey, which dumped all that rain on Texas and Louisiana, ruined the best-laid plans of cotton farmers and urban planners.

The boiling seas off Africa are now sending us another.  This one is a vortex of water vapor and wind that no more cares that it is going to hit West Palm Beach than it would Winnipeg. It is mindless force of nature, and it is about to humble the sunny lands. It will cost billions of dollars.

And no presidential act, no bluster or official act, can stop what is coming. True, the warming planet makes these superstorms more likely, but the contribution our carbon-addicted economy did to create this storm was already cast into the atmosphere. Whether we elected the denialist or the one who didn’t deny it,  we were going to warm and warm anyway, and the storms will still come.

We are laid out vulnerable now. The millions of years of evolution and the thousands of years of civilization are but a veneer.  Before this coming storm, we are the Taung child, and the great eagle is stooping from the sky, talons poised.

We’ve spent much of our political energy over the past year or so engaged picayune squabbles. We’ve become obsessed with immigration, especially of how it relates to our so-called “national character.” We’ve elected a man who will keep us safe from the scary Mexicans and Muslims, as if those were the greatest threat we had to face.

We lost our minds about who gets to refuse service at the bakery and who gets to use what bathroom. We fought those wars of culture so long that they are so well-worn and threadbare that we no longer have a body politic. We have our factions now. That is the United States. States that are united in law but no longer in national purpose or understanding.

But while we were worrying about all these things, the planet warmed a bit more. We landed, then, one year on a bad roll of the dice, and the big storms are coming.

We could have spent this time working on building up a post-carbon economy, improving infrastructure, and developing innovative ways of flood control and evacuation procedures.

That’s what a rational people would have done with these past few years. The debate of the last presidential campaign would have largely been based upon those issues and not the worst sort of nationalist fear-mongering.

But we build the walls. We imprison more people in the world than any other, and yet we do not feel safe. We are armed to the teeth with more guns per capita than anywhere else, and yet we don’t sleep easy at night.

Income inequality and job insecurity eat away at our sound minds. We might have spent the last election fighting over those issues.  We chose differently.

Now the poor  are exposed to the drowning waters and the howling winds. It won’t be as bad as Katrina, we hope.

But no wall can stop what is coming.  It is coming. People will die.

No matter how advanced we are, the fortress cannot protect us.

We are vulnerable, exposed. And this is truly frightening for such a walled-off species.

 

 


Natural History

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Dog Runs Away To Find Missing Elderly Woman

Flash with the rescue team

It’s always scary when a pet runs away from home. However, the Ward family in Durham, England, had an extra joyful reunion with their dog, Flash, after he disappeared overnight. While away from home, Flash managed to find a woman who had been missing since the day before!

According to The Telegraph, an elderly woman disappeared on Saturday, July 22. Police began searching for the woman at the request of her family. The search involved a search and rescue team, members of the public, a police helicopter, and more than 20 officers. As one officer noted, “The whole community chipped in.” However, it was the ten-month-old Patterdale Terrier, Flash, who ended up the hero.

Read the complete story.

Halo Pets

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Our Community Helped the Port Aransas Shelter!

Thank you all SO much for your purchases and social shares of our fundraiser this Labor Day weekend to benefit the City of Port Aransas Animal Shelter! As you know, this coastal community has long…



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DogTipper

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Update: PetsitUSA Accepts Credit Cards

New and returning members of PetsitUSA can now purchase memberships with credit cards.  In the past, members could only pay with checks or PayPal.  Members will also automatically have their accounts activated.  Our ‘Welcome’ and ‘Thank you’ emails will also be automatically sent.  We hope this makes it easier for members to join and continue to stay with PetsitUSA!


PetsitUSA Blog

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Thanks for you comment Wolfmommy. We admire your f…

Thanks for you comment Wolfmommy. We admire your fortitude in the middle of this impossible time period for true WDs. And we'll always be grateful for Karma. She showed us how bad the labeling debacle was getting in the sheltering world.

Oxo – So kind of you to send a donation today. I'll be buying some pups some fishy-good treats in your honor. Thank you!
BAD RAP Blog

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What’s in a name…the Brutal Poodle

The Poodle (and Dog) Blog

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Best eclipse ever

Not full in WV, but pretty darn cool!

IMG_4487


Natural History

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Heading Back To Preschool (In Style!)

Back to Preschool Style

Thank you Kmart for sponsoring this post. While this was a sponsored opportunity from Kmart, all content and opinions expressed here are my own.

Earlier this month, I shared some tips on how we’ve been preparing (Essley and ourselves!) for back-to-school season. I mentioned how last year was Essley’s first year of preschool, which made this our first official summer break, and that we’ve been experimenting with ways to make the transition easier. One tip/topic I didn’t cover that has been huge around here for Essley (and admittedly, for me too) is back-to-school clothes shopping. As a kid, picking out new clothing and accessories was my absolute favorite part of heading back after summer break. And now that Essley is really starting to show an interest in fashion and dressing herself, the act of getting new duds for the school year has been getting her more excited than anything else. In fact, she told me that she was going to “do a blog post about some of her new school clothes,” and proceeded to “take photos” of them with her toy camera. I’m sure you can imagine how pumped she was when I asked her if she’d like to do a real outfit post featuring these clothes for mommy’s blog. So here we are.

Essley’s preschool doesn’t have a dress code, but they do require closed toed shoes and comfortable clothing that allows for play and movement. Thankfully, there are all sorts of choices for casual, practical pieces that are also stylish and fun at Kmart.com. Essley says these silver Maisy Sneakers make her feel “magical.” And while they may seem fancy to her, they’re well made and designed for comfort, making them the perfect shoe for running around at school. Her new Basic Edition Girls’ Skater Dress is also equal parts style and practicality, with cute marled jersey knit and a fun fit-and-flare shape. I love how it works for late summer/early fall with bare legs, but will be great for winter paired with tights. And you can’t beat the price! Her other favorite back-to-school outfit features the cutest Floral Smock Shirt (I mean seriously, look at that print!) and on trend Piper Faves Girls’ Skinny Jeans (which have an adjustable waist to allow for growth and stretch denim to allow for play). Essley is also super stoked on her new Owls Backpack by Joe Boxer. (Those of you who follow me on social media might be aware of “Owly,” Essley’s favorite stuffed animal; the girl loves her some owls.) It has a durable canvas design, lots of space for everything she needs to bring to and from school, and is even more adorable in person. And it’s under $ 10! I know I’m biased, but I think Essley looks pretty freaking cute in her new gear – and the fact that it’s making her more excited to start school is a major bonus.

In addition to the back-to-school clothing, shoes, and accessories we were able to get at Kmart.com, we were also able to grab some school supplies, including a box of 24 Crayola Crayons (on sale for 50 cents through 9/16!), Fiskars Blunt Scissors, and Elmer’s Giant Glue Sticks. Essley is almost as excited about the supplies as she is about her new clothes. I’m actually pretty excited myself not to have to run a bunch of errands to different places to get everything we need for her to head back. Three cheers for back-to-school multi-tasking from your living room chair!

If you’re in need of back-to-school clothing, accessories, shoes, supplies, and other fall shopping goodness, Kmart is having all sorts of really incredible sales right now. All denim jeans for the family are on sale starting at $ 8 (through 8/26) – we definitely took advantage of this one. All backpacks (including Essley’s beloved owl bag) are 35% off (and some are $ 5 on sale!) through 8/26. And also on sale through 8/26 are Basic Editions Kids’ Mix-and-Match Separates – for just $ 5! You can find all sorts of other specials on apparel, accessories, shoes, and school supplies (including Elmer’s 4 ounce School Glue for 50 cents, 10 Paper-Mate Write Bros Ball Point Pens for $ 1.50, Poly 2 Pocket Folders for 50 cents, and a whole lot more) at Kmart.com.

Who else has a little one with an affinity for back-to-school shopping? Any parents out there who (like me) might have even more fun with it than their kids?

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Bubby and Bean ::: Living Creatively

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Halo’s Director of Sourcing Helps Launch Conservation Effort

Dave Carter, Halo Pets Director of Sourcing

We’re proud that Halo’s own Director of Sourcing and Ingredient Stewardship Dave Carter is helping launch this important conservation effort!

Excerpts from the Major Bison Restoration Campaign Launch press release:

One million bison, one continent and one cohesive commitment to bison herd restoration. If the bison industry achieves its goal, the North American bison herd will swell to 1 million strong by 2027. This aggressive growth goal was announced at the 2017 International Bison Conference as the “Bison 1 Million” campaign.  More than 600 bison ranchers, producers, marketers and enthusiasts were in the capacity audience when National Bison Association executive director Dave Carter announced this new and audacious brass ring for bison herd expansion.

Representatives of The National Bison Association (NBA), Canadian Bison Association (CBA), InterTribal Buffalo Council (ITBC) and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) are participating in the formal announcement today as a demonstration of the collaborative commitment to bison restoration among private ranchers, public herd managers, tribal leaders, conservationists, government agencies and other stakeholders in the United States and Canada. 

“Six years ago, many of us came together in the successful campaign to establish bison as the National Mammal of the United States. Today, we are reaffirming our commitment to continue to work together to restore bison in commercial, conservation and cultural herds across North America,” said Dave Carter, executive director for the National Bison Association.  “In the coming months, each of our partners will be providing outreach education on the activities that will help promote the continued restoration of bison on private, public and tribal lands,” Carter added.”

Read more about the major bison restoration campaign.

Halo Pets

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