JERUSALEM, May 21 (Xinhua) -- A multinational study has proved the existence of the Ethiopian wolf about 1.5 million years ago, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) said on Sunday, ahead of the International Day for Biological Diversity, which falls on May 22.
As one of Africa's most endangered carnivores, there are fewer than 500 Ethiopian wolves remaining in six isolated enclaves in the Ethiopian highlands at an altitude of more than 3,000 meters.
In the study published in the journal Nature Communications Biology, HU researchers and their colleagues from Spain, the United States, Italy, and Ethiopia made a joint study on a lower jaw fossil of the Ethiopian wolf found in 2017 at the Melka Wakena site complex in the highlands.
According to the study, the specimen, the only discovered Pleistocene fossil of the Ethiopian wolf, dates back to about 1.5 million years ago, which contradicts previous claims that the Ethiopian wolf came from Eurasia to Africa about 20,000 years ago.
The endemic Ethiopian wolf, also known as the red jackal, is threatened by loss of habitat mainly due to an ever-depleting number of prey and the spread of dog diseases such as rabies.
Bioclimatic modeling applied by the researchers suggested that the species lineage faced severe survival challenges due to consecutive drastic geographic range contractions during warmer periods.
Using these models, the team projected that a significant reduction of the already-deteriorating territories suitable for the Ethiopian wolf increases the threat to its future survival.
The findings highlighted the urgent need to preserve the ecological habitats of the species to ensure their survival, the researchers concluded.