Deciphering the origins of phenotypic variations in natural animal populations is a challenging topic for evolutionary and conservation biologists. Atypical morphologies in mammals are usually attributed to interspecific hybridisation or de-novo mutations. Here we report the case of four golden jackals (Canis aureus), that were observed during a camera-trapping wildlife survey in Northern Israel, displaying anomalous morphological traits, such as white patches, an upturned tail, and long thick fur which resemble features of domesticated mammals. Another individual was culled under permit and was genetically and morphologically examined. Paternal and nuclear genetic profiles, as well as geometric morphometric data, identified this individual as a golden jackal rather than a recent dog/wolf-jackal hybrid. Its maternal haplotype suggested past introgression of African wolf (Canis lupaster) mitochondrial DNA, as previously documented in other jackals from Israel. When viewed in the context of the jackal as an overabundant species in Israel, the rural nature of the surveyed area, the abundance of anthropogenic waste, and molecular and morphological findings, the possibility of an individual presenting incipient stages of domestication should also be considered.
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