Just the Facts: Jackals fill a similar ecological niche to the Coyote in North America, that of scavengers and lesser predators. Their long legs and curved canine teeth are adapted for hunting small mammals, birds and reptiles. Blunt feet and fused leg bones give them a long-distance runner's physique, capable of maintaining speeds of 16km/h (10mph) for extended periods of time. They are nocturnal, most active at dawn and dusk.
All in the Family: In jackal society the social unit is that of a monogamous pair which defends its territory from other pairs. These territories are defended by vigorously chasing intruding rivals and marking landmarks around the territory with urine and feces. The territory may be large enough to hold some young adults who stay with their parents until they establish their own territory. Jackals may occasionally assemble in small packs, for example to scavenge a carcass, but normally hunt alone or as a pair.
Old-fashioned: Jackals are considered close to what all ancestral canids looked and behaved like. Despite their outward similarity, the four species are not considered closely related to one another.
The Simian Jackal is actually a wolf that took on the appearance of a large fox or jackal through convergent evolution (by adopting a similar diet of small rodents), and the other three 'true jackals' are believed to have split from each other 6 mya. The Golden Jackal is thought to have evolved in Asia whilst the other two species evolved in Africa.
Egyptian God: The Ancient Egyptian god of embalming and burial, Anubis, was depicted as a man with a jackal's head. The presence of jackals around abattoirs and funeral grounds gave rise to the association between jackals and the dead. Today they are one of the more commonly seen animals on safaris, and are found outside of national parks and do well in human altered landscapes and even near and
in human settlements.
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