Camelus bactrianus (*)
Camelus bactrianus Linnaeus, 1758
* Camelus bactrianus on Mammal Species of the World.
The Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus) is a large even-toed ungulate native to the steppes of central Asia. It is presently restricted in the wild to remote regions of the Gobi and Taklimakan Deserts of Mongolia and Xinjiang, China. There are a small number wild Bactrian camels still roaming the Mangystau Province of South West Kazakhstan. 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. In October 2002, the estimated 800 remaining in the wild in northwest China and Mongolia were classified as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
Some authorities, notably the IUCN, use the binomial name Camelus ferus for the wild Bactrian camel and reserve Camelus bactrianus for the domesticated form.
It is thought that the Bactrian camel was domesticated (independently of the dromedary) sometime before 2500 BCE, probably in northern Iran, Northeast Afghanistan, or southwestern Turkestan. The Dromedary camel is believed to have been domesticated between 4000 BCE and 2000 BCE in Arabia. The wild population of Bactrian camels was first described by Nikolai Przhevalsky in the late 19th century. Their name comes from the ancient historical region of Bactria.
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).
As of the 1980s, a complete range of fossils suggests that the first camels appeared in North America about 30 million years ago, had a relatively small body mass and were adapted to warm climates. By the early Pleistocene (about 2 million years ago), they had already evolved into a form similar to the current Bactrian camel and many individuals permanently migrated to the opposite end of the Bering Strait in an abrupt fashion, probably as a response to the advancing ice age. All remaining American populations became extinct about 8,000 years ago.
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.
Another difference is the ability of these wild camels 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.
The Bactrian camel was identified as one of the top ten "focal species" in 2007 by the Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) project, which prioritises unique and threatened species for conservation. Fewer than a thousand are thought to survive in the wild and the population is decreasing. A small captive population is kept in Mongolia and China.
* The Story of the Weeping Camel, a 2003 Mongolian documentary/story about a family of nomadic shepherds trying to get a white colt accepted by his mother, who rejected him after a difficult birth.
1. ^ a b c Hare, J. (2008). Camelus ferus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 31 January 2008. Database entry includes justification for why this species is critically endangered
Source: Wikipedia, Wikispecies: All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License