NamingThere is some evidence that the Bactrian camel can be divided 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.
As many as three regions in the genetic makeup are distinctly different from domesticated camels, with 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.
StatusThe Bactrian camel was identified as one of the top ten "focal species" in 2007 by the Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered 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.
EvolutionThe Bactrian camel is thought to have been domesticated 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 .As of the 1980s, a complete range of fossils suggests the first camelids 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 , 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. The remaining related types of American camelids are now only in South America.
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