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Bactrian Camels

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The Bactrian camel, also known as the Mongolian camel or domestic Bactrian camel, is a large even-toed ungulate native to the steppes of Central Asia. It has two humps on its back, in contrast to the single-humped dromedary camel. Its population of two million exists mainly in the domesticated form. Their name comes from the ancient historical region of Bactria.

Domesticated Bactrian camels have served as pack animals in inner Asia since ancient times. With its tolerance for cold, drought, and high altitudes, it enabled the travel of caravans on the Silk Road. Bactrian camels, whether domesticated or feral, are a separate species from the wild Bactrian camel, which is the only truly wild (as opposed to feral) species of camel in the world.

The Bactrian camel shares the genus Camelus with the dromedary (C. dromedarius) and the wild Bactrian camel (C. ferus). The Bactrian camel belongs to the family Camelidae. The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle was the first European to describe the species of Camelus: in his 4th-century-BC History of Animals, he identified the one-humped Arabian camel and the two-humped Bactrian camel. The Bactrian camel was given its current binomial name Camelus bactrianus by Swedish zoologist Carl Linnaeus in his 1758 publication Systema Naturae.

In 2007, Peng Cui (of the Chinese Academy of Sciences) and colleagues carried out a phylogenetic study of the evolutionary relationships between the two tribes of Camelidae: Camelini—consisting of the three Camelus species (the study considered the wild Bactrian camel as a subspecies of the Bactrian camel)—and Lamini—consisting of the alpaca (Vicugna pacos), the guanaco (Lama guanicoe), the llama (L. glama) and the vicuña (V. vicugna). The study revealed that the two tribes had diverged 25 million years ago (early Miocene), notably earlier than what had been previously estimated from North American fossils. Speciation began first in Lamini as the alpaca came into existence 10 million years ago. Nearly two million years later, the Bactrian camel and the dromedary emerged as two independent species. However, the fossil record suggests a far more recent divergence between the Bactrian camel and the dromedary because, despite a moderately rich fossil record of camelids, no fossil that fits within this divergence is older than middle Pleistocene (about 0.8 Ma). Wikipedia

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