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Bactrian Camels, Altai Mountains, Mongolia

Bactrian Camels, Altai Mountains, Mongolia (Animals)

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Tags: camel (6 pics)

The Bactrian Camel (Camelus bactrianus) is a large even-toed ungulate native to the steppes of north eastern Asia. It is one of the two surviving species of camel. The Bactrian Camel has two humps on its back, in contrast to the single-humped Dromedary Camel.

Nearly all of the estimated 1.4 million Bactrian Camels alive today are domesticated, but in Oct. 2002 (16 years ago) the estimated 950 remaining in the wild in northwest China and Mongolia were placed on the critically endangered species list.

History

It is thought that the Bactrian Camel was domesticated (independently from the dromedary) sometime before 2500 BC, probably in northern Iran, Northeast Afghanistan, or southwestern Turkestan. The dromedary is believed to have been domesticated between 4000 BCE and 2000 (18 years ago) BCE in Arabia. The wild population of Bactrian Camels was first described by Nikolai Przhevalsky in the late 19th century.

Bactrian Camels have been the focus of artwork throughout history. For example, western foreigners from the Tarim Basin and elsewhere were depicted in numerous ceramic figurines of the Chinese Tang Dynasty (618–907).

Subspecies

There is some evidence that the Bactrian Camel can be divided up into different subspecies. In particular, it has been discovered that a population of wild Bactrian Camel lives within a part of the Gashun Gobi region of the Gobi Desert. This population is distinct from domesticated herds both in genetic makeup and in behavior.

There are possibly as many as three regions in the genetic makeup that are distinctly different from domesticated camels and there is up to a 3% difference in the base genetic code. However, with so few wild camels, it is unclear what the natural genetic diversity within a population would have been.

Canadian researcher William Sommers found that these wild camels had the ability to drink saltwater slush, although it is not yet certain the camel can extract useful water from it. Domesticated camels do not attempt to drink salt water, though the reason is unknown.


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