Bactrian camel
Overview
 
The Bactrian camel is a large, even-toed ungulate
Even-toed ungulate
The even-toed ungulates are ungulates whose weight is borne about equally by the third and fourth toes, rather than mostly or entirely by the third as in odd-toed ungulates such as horses....

 native to the steppe
Steppe
In physical geography, steppe is an ecoregion, in the montane grasslands and shrublands and temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biomes, characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes...

s of central Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

. It is presently restricted in the wild to remote regions of the Gobi
Gobi Desert
The Gobi is a large desert region in Asia. It covers parts of northern and northwestern China, and of southern Mongolia. The desert basins of the Gobi are bounded by the Altai Mountains and the grasslands and steppes of Mongolia on the north, by the Hexi Corridor and Tibetan Plateau to the...

 and Taklamakan Deserts of Mongolia
Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...

 and Xinjiang
Xinjiang
Xinjiang is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. It is the largest Chinese administrative division and spans over 1.6 million km2...

. A small number of wild Bactrian camels still roam the Mangystau Province of southwest Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan , officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Ranked as the ninth largest country in the world, it is also the world's largest landlocked country; its territory of is greater than Western Europe...

. It is one of the two surviving species of camel
Camel
A camel is an even-toed ungulate within the genus Camelus, bearing distinctive fatty deposits known as humps on its back. There are two species of camels: the dromedary or Arabian camel has a single hump, and the bactrian has two humps. Dromedaries are native to the dry desert areas of West Asia,...

. The Bactrian camel has two humps on its back, in contrast to the single-humped dromedary camel
Dromedary
The dromedary or Arabian camel is a large, even-toed ungulate with one hump on its back. Its native range is unclear, but it was probably the Arabian Peninsula. The domesticated form occurs widely in North Africa and the Middle East...

.

Nearly all of the estimated 1.4 million Bactrian camels alive today are domesticated
Domestication
Domestication or taming is the process whereby a population of animals or plants, through a process of selection, becomes accustomed to human provision and control. In the Convention on Biological Diversity a domesticated species is defined as a 'species in which the evolutionary process has been...

.
Encyclopedia
The Bactrian camel is a large, even-toed ungulate
Even-toed ungulate
The even-toed ungulates are ungulates whose weight is borne about equally by the third and fourth toes, rather than mostly or entirely by the third as in odd-toed ungulates such as horses....

 native to the steppe
Steppe
In physical geography, steppe is an ecoregion, in the montane grasslands and shrublands and temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biomes, characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes...

s of central Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

. It is presently restricted in the wild to remote regions of the Gobi
Gobi Desert
The Gobi is a large desert region in Asia. It covers parts of northern and northwestern China, and of southern Mongolia. The desert basins of the Gobi are bounded by the Altai Mountains and the grasslands and steppes of Mongolia on the north, by the Hexi Corridor and Tibetan Plateau to the...

 and Taklamakan Deserts of Mongolia
Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...

 and Xinjiang
Xinjiang
Xinjiang is an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China. It is the largest Chinese administrative division and spans over 1.6 million km2...

. A small number of wild Bactrian camels still roam the Mangystau Province of southwest Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan
Kazakhstan , officially the Republic of Kazakhstan, is a transcontinental country in Central Asia and Eastern Europe. Ranked as the ninth largest country in the world, it is also the world's largest landlocked country; its territory of is greater than Western Europe...

. It is one of the two surviving species of camel
Camel
A camel is an even-toed ungulate within the genus Camelus, bearing distinctive fatty deposits known as humps on its back. There are two species of camels: the dromedary or Arabian camel has a single hump, and the bactrian has two humps. Dromedaries are native to the dry desert areas of West Asia,...

. The Bactrian camel has two humps on its back, in contrast to the single-humped dromedary camel
Dromedary
The dromedary or Arabian camel is a large, even-toed ungulate with one hump on its back. Its native range is unclear, but it was probably the Arabian Peninsula. The domesticated form occurs widely in North Africa and the Middle East...

.

Nearly all of the estimated 1.4 million Bactrian camels alive today are domesticated
Domestication
Domestication or taming is the process whereby a population of animals or plants, through a process of selection, becomes accustomed to human provision and control. In the Convention on Biological Diversity a domesticated species is defined as a 'species in which the evolutionary process has been...

. In October 2002, the estimated 800 remaining in the wild in northwest China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 and Mongolia
Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...

 were classified as critically endangered
Critically endangered
Version 2010.3 of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species identified 3744 Critically Endangered species, subspecies and varieties, stocks and subpopulations.Critically Endangered by kingdom:*1993 Animalia*2 Fungi*1745 Plantae*4 Protista-References:...

 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.

History

The Bactrian camel is thought to have been domesticated (independently of the dromedary) sometime before 2500 BCE, probably in northern Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, Northeast Afghanistan
Afghanistan
Afghanistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, is a landlocked country located in the centre of Asia, forming South Asia, Central Asia and the Middle East. With a population of about 29 million, it has an area of , making it the 42nd most populous and 41st largest nation in the world...

, or southwestern Turkestan
Turkestan
Turkestan, spelled also as Turkistan, literally means "Land of the Turks".The term Turkestan is of Persian origin and has never been in use to denote a single nation. It was first used by Persian geographers to describe the place of Turkish peoples...

. The dromedary camel is believed to have been domesticated between 4000 BCE
4th millennium BC
The 4th millennium BC saw major changes in human culture. It marked the beginning of the Bronze Age and of writing.The city states of Sumer and the kingdom of Egypt were established and grew to prominence. Agriculture spread widely across Eurasia...

 and 2000 BCE
2nd millennium BC
The 2nd millennium BC marks the transition from the Middle to the Late Bronze Age.Its first half is dominated by the Middle Kingdom of Egypt and Babylonia. The alphabet develops. Indo-Iranian migration onto the Iranian plateau and onto the Indian subcontinent propagates the use of the chariot...

 in Arabia. The wild population of Bactrian camels was first described by Nikolai Przhevalsky
Nikolai Przhevalsky
Nikolai Mikhaylovich Przhevalsky and Prjevalsky, ; —), was a Russian geographer of Polish background and explorer of Central and Eastern Asia. Although he never reached his final goal, Lhasa in Tibet, he travelled through regions unknown to the west, such as northern Tibet, modern Qinghai and...

 in the late 19th century. Their name comes from the ancient historical region of Bactria
Bactria
Bactria and also appears in the Zend Avesta as Bukhdi. It is the ancient name of a historical region located between south of the Amu Darya and west of the Indus River...

.

Bactrian camels have been the focus of artwork throughout history. For example, western foreigners from the Tarim Basin
Tarim Basin
The Tarim Basin is a large endorheic basin occupying an area of about . It is located in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China's far west. Its northern boundary is the Tian Shan mountain range and its southern is the Kunlun Mountains on the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau. The...

 and elsewhere were depicted in numerous ceramic figurines of the Chinese Tang dynasty
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

 (618–907).

Evolutionary history

As of the 1980s, a complete range of fossil
Fossil
Fossils are the preserved remains or traces of animals , plants, and other organisms from the remote past...

s suggests the first camelid
Camelid
Camelids are members of the biological family Camelidae, the only living family in the suborder Tylopoda. Dromedaries, Bactrian Camels, llamas, alpacas, vicuñas, and guanacos are in this group....

s appeared in North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

 about 30 million years ago, had a relatively small body mass and were adapted to warm climates.
By the early Pleistocene
Pleistocene
The Pleistocene is the epoch from 2,588,000 to 11,700 years BP that spans the world's recent period of repeated glaciations. The name pleistocene is derived from the Greek and ....

 (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
Bering Strait
The Bering Strait , known to natives as Imakpik, is a sea strait between Cape Dezhnev, Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Russia, the easternmost point of the Asian continent and Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska, USA, the westernmost point of the North American continent, with latitude of about 65°40'N,...

 in an abrupt fashion, probably as a response to the advancing ice age
Ice age
An ice age or, more precisely, glacial age, is a generic geological period of long-term reduction in the temperature of the Earth's surface and atmosphere, resulting in the presence or expansion of continental ice sheets, polar ice sheets and alpine glaciers...

. The remaining related types of American camelids are now only in South America.

Subspecies

There 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
Gobi Desert
The Gobi is a large desert region in Asia. It covers parts of northern and northwestern China, and of southern Mongolia. The desert basins of the Gobi are bounded by the Altai Mountains and the grasslands and steppes of Mongolia on the north, by the Hexi Corridor and Tibetan Plateau to the...

. 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.

Conservation

The Bactrian camel was identified as one of the top ten "focal species" in 2007 by the Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered
EDGE Species
Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered species represent a disproportionate amount of unique evolutionary history. They have few close relatives and are often extremely unusual in the way they look, live and behave...

 (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.

Documentaries

  • The Story of the Weeping Camel
    The Story of the Weeping Camel
    The Story of the Weeping Camel is a 2003 German docudrama distributed by ThinkFilm. It was released internationally in 2004. The movie was directed and written by Byambasuren Davaa and Luigi Falorni. The plot is about a family of nomadic shepherds in the Gobi desert trying to save the life of a...

    is a 2003
    2003 in film
    The year 2003 in film involved some significant events. Releases of sequels took place with movies like The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, Pokémon Heroes, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines,...

     Mongolia
    Mongolia
    Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...

    n 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.
  • Planet Earth: "Deserts" shows footage of wild camels from a two-month trek in the Gobi desert. It includes a "diary" section, explaining the difficulties in obtaining the footage.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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