Authors

Yusefi GH, Godinho R, Khalatbari L, Broomand S, Fahimi H, Martínez-Freiría F, Álvares F

Abstract

Generalist species are often characterized by low habitat specialization and reduced genetic structure in their populations. Here, we tested this common assumption on golden jackals in Iran, a wide country with a highly heterogeneous landscape where this carnivore is assumed to be widespread, although little is known about the ecology and population genetics of this species. We investigate distribution patterns, habitat requirements, and niche breadth of golden jackals by using GIS techniques and ecological modeling over a total of 452 presence records. We then assessed genetic diversity and population structure by analyzing 24 samples for 43 microsatellites. The observed distribution patterns show an extensive range across a wide climatic, ecological and altitudinal gradient, covering eight climate regions and 16 terrestrial ecoregions. Ecological modeling confirms high habitat plasticity of the golden jackal, with selection of mountainous areas with high slopes, moderate temperatures, and areas with low human population and activity while avoiding hyper-arid regions. Estimated values of niche breadth were high, indicating that is a generalist species in the study area. The observed genetic diversity was high, representing the highest value reported so far in this species. We found no signature of population structure, suggesting a single genetic cluster, as well as no evidence of hybridization with domestic dogs. Our results provide valuable ecological and genetic information on a widespread but poorly known carnivore, often disregarded in conservation strategies but under pressure from anthropogenic threats.

 

Journal: Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research

Link: 10.1111/jzs.12519