The African wolf is a missing link in the wolf-like canid phylogeny
Here we present the first genomic data for the African wolf (Canis aureus lupaster) and conclusively demonstrate that it is a unique taxon and not a hybrid between other canids. These animals are commonly misclassified as golden jackals (Canis aureus) and have never been included in any large-scale studies of canid diversity and biogeography, or in investigations of the early stages of dog domestication. Applying massive Restriction Site Associated DNA (RAD) sequencing, 110481 polymorphic sites across the genome of 7 individuals of African wolf were aligned and compared with other wolf-like canids (golden jackal, Holarctic grey wolf, Ethiopian wolf, side-striped jackal and domestic dog). Analyses of this extensive sequence dataset (ca. 8.5Mb) show conclusively that the African wolves represent a distinct taxon more closely related to the Holarctic grey wolf than to the golden jackal. Our results strongly indicate that the distribution of the golden jackal needs to be re-evaluated and point towards alternative hypotheses for the evolution of the rare and endemic Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis). Furthermore, the extension of the grey wolf phylogeny and distribution opens new possible scenarios for the timing and location of dog domestication.