They’re All the Same to Us

on February 5, 2011
Featured in News to Know

Is it a jackal or a wolf—or just another reminder of an original created “dog” kind?

Researchers studying the DNA of the Egyptian jackal, which had been classified as a type of golden jackal, have concluded that it is actually a relative of the grey wolf—and hence more closely related to Indian and Himalayan wolves than to golden jackals. The analysis caps off a long-running debate over whether the species, Canis aureus lupaster, was actually a jackal or a wolf.

The multinational team responsible for the analysis was inspired by a photograph of a “wolf-like animal” seen in Eritrea several years ago. The animal was supposedly a golden jackal, yet its features—as with certain other golden jackals—seemed more wolflike: “larger, more slender, and sometimes with a more whitish colouration.”

The team is planning to push for a formal reclassification of the species as a type of grey wolf, which previously were not known to inhabit mainland Africa. The researchers are also interested in another “intriguing” photograph showing a wolf in northern Senegal, where none had been reported before. Even more fascinating, “This wolf is hanging out with a family group of side-striped jackals. So this shows that there is complexity, not just in distribution but in sociality,” explained team member Claudio Sillero of the University of Oxford’s Wildlife Conservation Research Unit.

The whole range of canids, from domesticated dogs to wolves to jackals and beyond, constitutes the diversified members of the original “dog” kind.

For years, creationists have emphasized a “kinds” model of biology (and thereby established the field of baraminology). This model starts with the Bible’s description of God creating unique “kinds” of plants and animals (and man as distinct from any animal kind), then applies what we know about natural selection and various genetic processes to understand the biological diversity we observe today. Rather than all creatures descending from the same original organism—a “tree” model of life—all creatures descend from the progenitors of their kind—an “orchard” model. Thus, the whole range of canids, from domesticated dogs to wolves to jackals and beyond, constitutes the diversified members of the original “dog” kind. And the confusion over the taxonomic placement of the Egyptian jackal reminds us of this biological reality.

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