A recent study determined that camels’ genes and their diversity were shaped by ancient trade routes. The animals were used to transport people and goods and constantly traded for others well-rested camels in the way.
Researchers combined ancient DNA sequences from the wild and early-domesticated dromedaries, also known as one-humped Arabian camels. Then researchers took samples from the modern animals in differents parts of the world to compared the change among them, according to the study. The research was published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The team found little differences among the species, which indicated an extensive gene flow that affected all arid regions except East Africa. The latter being where the dromedary populations remained relatively isolated due to the geographic region and cultural differences.
Modern Camels vs. Ancient Camels
The relation between the animals and their use as a transport may be the reason to this lack of diversity among the camels’ gene. Even though they were thousands miles away from each others and did not have a direct connection.
“People would travel hundreds of miles with their camels carrying all their precious goods. And when they reached the Mediterranean, the animals would be exhausted,” study co-author Olivier Hanotte, a professor of genetics and conservation at Nottingham University, told BBC News. “So they would leave those animals to recover and take new animals for their return journey,” he added.
According to Hanotte, this back-and-forward created some kind of “shuffling” and merged the dromedaries’ genes with one another from regions of Africa. Also from different regions of the Arabian Peninsula, southern Asia, and Australia. Thus, creating a diversity in the specie that was later consistent among most camel populations.
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Until now, it was unknown from which population the domesticated camels came from. And although they fulfilled an important form of transportation, their evolutionary history was also a mystery.
Researchers identified the wild dromedaries from the southeast Arabian Peninsula among the founders of the domestic dromedary gene pool from the ancient DNA. In agreement with the archaeological findings in the area.
This DNA was later distributed among other populations through the repeated breeding of wild dromedaries with the early-domesticated ones, explained Pamela Burger from the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology at Vetmeduni Vienna.
Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences