African Wild Dog

African Wild Dog

Although the African wild dog is genetically diverse, five subspecies are generally recognized but are not universally accepted.

East African and Southern African populations were once thought to be genetically distinct, based on a small number of samples, but more recent studies with a larger number of samples showed that extensive intermixing has occurred between the East African and Southern African populations in the past.

Some unique nuclear and mitochondrial alleles are found in Southern African and Northeastern African populations, with a transition zone encompassing Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Southeastern Tanzania between the two. The West African population may possess a unique haplotype, thus possibly constituting a truly distinct subspecies.

The Cape wild dog (L. p. pictus) is the nominate subspecies and was described by Coenraad Temminck in 1820. This subspecies inhabits the Cape area of Southern Africa and are characterized by a large amount of yellow-orange fur overlapping the black. They also have partially yellow backs of the ears, mostly yellow underparts, and a number of whitish hairs on the throat mane. Those in Mozambique are distinguished by the almost equal development of yellow and black on both the upper- and underparts of the body, as well as having less white fur than the Cape form.

The East African wild dog (L. p. lupinus) was described by Thomas in 1902 and resides in East Africa, as the name would imply. This subspecies is distinguished by a smaller size and a high-contrast coat. The black markings are very dark, and although there are few yellow markings, they are a bright yellow-orange.

A few years later, in 1904, Thomas described another subspecies, the Somali wild dog (L. p. somalicus). The subspecies resides in the Horn of Africa and is similar to the East African wild dog but is smaller with shorter, coarser fur and weaker dentition. Its color closely matches the Cape wild dog, with the yellow markings being more buff rather than bright orange.

Another several years later, in 1907, Thomas with Wroughton described the Chad wild dog (L. p. sharicus) that inhabited Chad.

Lastly, the West African wild dog (L. p. manguensis) was described by Matschie in 1915 and resides in Central and West Africa. This subspecies is generally smaller than those that reside in South Africa.

Image | © Josh More, Some Rights Reserved (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Sources | (Animal Corner, 2019; Edwards, 2009; The Wikimedia Foundation, 2019; Wilson & Reeder, 2005; Wozencraft, 2005)

Learn More About the African Wild Dog


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