The analysis is based on mitochondrial DNA and is considered to be fool proof.
The African golden jackal and the Eurasian golden jackal were previously considered to be the same species and to have evolved from the same gray wolf ancestor. A new DNA analysis conducted by Klaus-Peter Koepfli of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and Robert Wayne of the University of California at Los Angeles has shown that the African golden jackal is really a new species of wolf. The discovery was reported in the July 30, 2015, edition of the journal Current Biology.
The Eurasian golden jackal and the African golden jackal have been considered to be the same species for over 150 years. The error was the result of very similar coloring between the two species of animals as well as a similarity in tooth structure and skull shape. The two species actually arose from different gray wolf species that were separated from each other at least one million years ago.
The researchers examined present day DNA samples from African jackals and samples that had been obtained 20 years ago. The DNA of the African golden jackal is not the same as the Eurasian golden jackal. The discovery has renamed the African golden jackal to Canis aureus. The name reflects the fact that the animal is a wolf and not a jackal and increases the number of living Canidae to 36. Canidae includes dogs, wolves, and foxes.