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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

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Maximum longevity: 35.4 years (captivity) Observations: It has been suggested that the potential longevity of camels is up to 50 years (Ronald Nowak 1999). Record longevity in captivity for domestic camels, however, is 35.4 years (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

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Dominant males defend groups of females from other males during breeding seasons.

Mating System: polygynous

Mating season occurs in the fall. Males during this time are often violent and may bite, spit, or attempt to sit on other male camels. The age of sexual maturity varies, but is usually reached at three to five years. Gestation lasts thirteen months, with most young being born from March through April. One or occasionally two calves are produced. Females can give birth to a new calf every other year. The baby calf is precocial, having the ability to stand at birth and walk only a few hours after. The young calf stays with its mother for three to five years, until it reaches sexual maturity. Wild camels sometimes breed with domesticated or feral camels as well.

(Crump, 1981; Boitani and Bartali, 1982; Morris, 1965; Sanderson, 1961)

Breeding interval: Female camels can reproduce once every two years.

Breeding season: Breeding occurs in the fall.

Range number of offspring: 1 to 2.

Average gestation period: 13 months.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 3 to 5 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 3 to 5 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous

Average birth mass: 36000 g.

Average gestation period: 395 days.

Average number of offspring: 1.

Young bactrian camels are precocial, being able to stand and run soon after birth. They are nursed for about 1.5 years in the wild and are fully grown by 5 years of age.

Parental Investment: precocial ; female parental care

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Fedewa, J. 2000. "Camelus bactrianus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Camelus_bactrianus.html
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Untitled

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The average life span in captivity ranges from twenty to thirty years.

In some countries camel fighting exerts a form of entertainment.

Camel races are a popular sport in Morocco. The camels go at fast paces similar to race horses.

(Morris, 1965; Rice, 1901; Sanderson, 1961; McSpadden, 1947)

Camels can swim (Philip Gee, personal communication http://www.austcamel.com.au ).

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Fedewa, J. 2000. "Camelus bactrianus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Camelus_bactrianus.html
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Behavior

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Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical

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Fedewa, J. 2000. "Camelus bactrianus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Camelus_bactrianus.html
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Conservation Status

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Bactrian camels were thought to be extinct in the wild until an expedition found some wild C. bactrianus in the Gobi desert in 1957. These wild groups are in the severe danger of going extinct and little is known about them. The estimated number of wild camels ranges from 400 to 700 animals in Mongolia and 200 in China. Compared to domestic camels, wild camels have smaller humps, smaller feet, shorter hair and a more slender body shape.

(Crump, 1981; Boitani and Bartali, 1982; Boorer, 1971; Morris, 1965)

US Federal List: endangered

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: no special status

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Fedewa, J. 2000. "Camelus bactrianus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Camelus_bactrianus.html
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Benefits

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Camels can have ill effects on humans. When very hungry, camels may eat people's possessions such as tents, sandals or blankets.

(Crump, 1981)

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Benefits

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Close to 3,500 years ago people first tamed wild camels and domesticated them; now almost all are domestic. The original purpose of domestication was probably to use their size and strength. Camels carry packages long distances to market and are used as a form of transportation. By the age of one year, the camel can take voice cammands from their owner. Humans also use many of the camel's by-products, especially camel meat and milk. Fat from the humps is melted down and serves in cooking. Dung provides fuel for heating. Loose hair is used for making clothes, blankets, carpets, and tents. The tanned hide is used to make shoes, sandals, and other leather products. In some countries, camels are an indication of wealth.

(Crump, 1981; Rice, 1901)

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Fedewa, J. 2000. "Camelus bactrianus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Camelus_bactrianus.html
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Trophic Strategy

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Camels are herbivores. They are able to eat plants that are dry, prickly, salty, and/or bitter, but prefer any kind of vegetation. When other nutrient sources are not available, these camels may feed on bones, other animals' skin, or different kinds of flesh. In more extreme conditions, they may eat rope, sandals, and even tents. Their ability to feed on a wide range of foods allows them to live in areas with sparse vegetation.

With tough mouths that can withstand sharp objects such as thorns, the digestion process begins. The first time food is swallowed it is not fully chewed. The partly masticated food (called cud) goes into the stomach and later is brought back up for further chewing.

Camels can go for several days without water. When water is available, they drink only to replace what is missing from their body. This amount can vary from nothing to 114 liters. Drinking the whole 114 liters of water takes only ten minutes. The camel also has the ability to quench its thirst with salty or brackish water. In the winter months, plants alone provide water.

A common misconception is that the camel's humps are for water storage. In reality, the humps contain a large amount of fat and are use for nourishment when food is scarce. This feature gives the camel the capability to go many days without eating. Each hump can hold up to 36 kg of fat. The hump decreases in size and become flabby as its contents are metabolized. Depletion of the hump is directly linked to the time between eating and the amount of energy expended. Thus, the size of the hump serves as an indication of C. bactrian's health, food supply and general well-being.

(Crump, 1981; Vaughan, 1972; Morris, 1965; Rice, 1901; Sanderson, 1961; McSpadden, 1947)

Plant Foods: leaves; roots and tubers; wood, bark, or stems; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit

Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )

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Fedewa, J. 2000. "Camelus bactrianus" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Camelus_bactrianus.html
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Distribution

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Camelus bactrianus occurs throughout Asia north of the Himalayan massif.

(Sanderson, 1961)

Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native )

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Habitat

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Bactrian camels inhabit arid regions. They are found along rivers in the Siberian steppe during winter but disperse into the desert when snows melt in spring. Temperatures range from -29 degrees Celsius in the winter to 38 degrees Celsius in the summer.

(Crump, 1981)

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: desert or dune ; savanna or grassland

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Life Expectancy

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Bactrian camels may live up to 50 years.

Range lifespan
Status: captivity:
50 (high) years.

Average lifespan
Status: captivity:
35.4 years.

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Morphology

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The most noticeable features of C. bactrianus are their two humps. At the hump, average height is 213 cm (7 feet). A thick, shaggy, dark brown to beige coat covers the camel during cold weather and is shed when the temperature rises. Longer hair hangs from the neck and gives the appearance of a beard. Bushy eyebrows, a double row of eyelashes, ears lined with hair and the ability to close nostrils and lips tightly serve as protection from harsh, blowing winds and sand. Their tough, even-toed feet help them to cross the rocky deserts of Asia and travel well through snow or sand.

(Crump, 1981; Boitani and Bartali, 1982; Vaughan, 1972)

Range mass: 450 to 500 kg.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

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Bactrian camel

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The Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus) 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.[2] Its population of two million exists mainly in the domesticated form.[3] Their name comes from the ancient historical region of Bactria.[4]

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.[5] 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.

Taxonomy

    Lamini

Alpaca

     

Vicuña

     

Llama

   

Guanaco

        Camelini

Dromedary

     

Wild Bactrian camel

   

Bactrian camel

          Phylogenetic relationships of the dromedary from combined analysis of all molecular data.[6]

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.[1][7] The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle was the first 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.[8][9] The Bactrian camel was given its current binomial name Camelus bactrianus by Swedish zoologist Carl Linnaeus in his 1758 publication Systema Naturae.[10]

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.[6] 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).[11]

The Bactrian camel and the dromedary often interbreed to produce fertile offspring. Where the ranges of the two species overlap, such as in northern Punjab, Iran and Afghanistan, the phenotypic differences between them tend to decrease as a result of extensive crossbreeding between them. The fertility of their hybrid has given rise to speculation that the Bactrian camel and the dromedary should be merged into a single species with two varieties.[12] However, a 1994 analysis of the mitochondrial cytochrome b gene revealed that the species display 10.3% divergence in their sequences.[13]

Differences from wild Bactrian camels

The wild Bactrian camel (Camelus ferus) was first described by Nikolay Przhevalsky in the late 19th century and has now been established as a distinct species from the Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus).[14][15]

Zoological opinion nowadays tends to favour the idea that C. bactrianus and C. dromedarius are descendants of two different subspecies of C. ferus (Peters and von den Driesch 1997: 652) and there is no evidence to suggest that the original range of C. ferus included those parts of Central Asia and Iran where some of the earliest Bactrian remains have been found.[16]

In particular, a population of wild Bactrian camel has been discovered to live within a part of the Gashun Gobi region of the Gobi Desert. This population is distinct from domesticated herds both in genetic makeup[17] and in behavior.

As many as three regions in the genetic makeup are distinctly different from Bactrian camels, with up to a 3% difference in the base genetic code. However, with so few wild camels, what the natural genetic diversity within a population would have been is not clear.

Another difference is the ability of these wild camels to drink saltwater slush, although whether the camel can extract useful water from it is not yet certain. Domesticated camels are unable to drink such salty water.[18]

Description

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Skull
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Skeleton

The Bactrian camel is the largest mammal in its native range and is the largest living camel. Shoulder height is from 180 to 230 cm (5.9 to 7.5 ft), head-and-body length is 225–350 cm (7.38–11.48 ft), and the tail length is 35–55 cm (14–22 in). At the top of the humps, the average height is 213 cm (6.99 ft). Body mass can range from 300 to 1,000 kg (660 to 2,200 lb), with males often being much larger and heavier than females.[3][19] Its long, wooly coat varies in colour from dark brown to sandy beige. A mane and beard of long hair occurs on the neck and throat, with hairs measuring up to 25 cm (9.8 in) long.

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Detail of feet

The shaggy winter coat is shed extremely rapidly, with huge sections peeling off at once, appearing as if sloppily shorn. The two humps on the back are composed of fat (not water as is sometimes thought). The face is typical of a camelid, being long and somewhat triangular, with a split upper lip. The long eyelashes, along with the sealable nostrils, help to keep out dust in the frequent sandstorms which occur in their natural range. The two broad toes on each foot have undivided soles and are able to spread widely as an adaptation to walking on sand. The feet are very tough, as befits an animal of extreme environments.

Natural habitat

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Petroglyphs of Bactrian camel

These camels are migratory, and their habitat ranges from rocky mountain massifs to flat arid desert, stony plains, and sand dunes. Conditions are extremely harsh – vegetation is sparse, water sources are limited and temperatures are extreme, ranging from as low as −40 °C in winter to 40 °C in summer. The camels’ distribution is linked to the availability of water, with large groups congregating near rivers after rain or at the foot of the mountains, where water can be obtained from springs in the summer months, and in the form of snow during the winter.

Life history

Bactrian camels are exceptionally adept at withstanding wide variations in temperature, ranging from freezing cold to blistering heat. They have a remarkable ability to go without water for months at a time, but when water is available they may drink up to 57 liters at once. When well fed, the humps are plump and erect, but as resources decline, the humps shrink and lean to the side. When moving faster than a walking speed, they pace, by stepping forwards with both legs on the same side (as opposed to trotting, using alternate diagonals as done by most other quadrupeds). Speeds of up to 65 kilometres per hour (40 mph) have been recorded, but they rarely move this fast. Bactrian camels are also said to be good swimmers. The sense of sight is well developed and the sense of smell is extremely good. The lifespan of Bactrian camels is estimated at up to 50 years, often 20 to 40 in captivity.

Diet

Bactrian camels are diurnal, sleeping in the open at night and foraging for food during the day. They are primarily herbivorous. With tough mouths that can withstand sharp objects such as thorns, they are able to eat plants that are dry, prickly, salty or bitter, and can ingest virtually any kind of vegetation. When other nutrient sources are not available, these camels may feed on carcasses, gnawing on bones, skin, or various different kinds of flesh. In more extreme conditions, they may eat any material they find, which has included rope, sandals, and even tents. Their ability to feed on a wide range of foods allows them to live in areas with sparse vegetation. The first time food is swallowed, it is not fully chewed. The partly masticated food (called cud) goes into the stomach and later is brought back up for further chewing.

Bactrian camels belong to a fairly small group of animals that regularly eat snow to provide their water needs. Animals living above the snowline may have to do this, as snow and ice can be the only forms of water during winter, and by doing so, their range is greatly enlarged. The latent heat of snow and ice is big compared with the heat capacity of water, forcing animals to eat only small amounts at a time.[20]

Reproduction

Bactrian camels are induced ovulators — they ovulate after insemination (insertion of semen into the vagina); the seminal plasma, not the spermatozoa, induces ovulation. Ovulation occurs in 87% of females after insemination: 66% ovulate within 36 h and the rest by 48 h (the same as natural mating). The least amount of semen required to elicit ovulation is about 1.0 ml.[21]

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A mother with a calf

Males during mating time are often quite violent and may bite, spit, or attempt to sit on other male camels. The age of sexual maturity varies, but is usually reached at 3 to 5 years. Gestation lasts around 13 months. One or occasionally two calves are produced, and the female can give birth to a new calf every other year. Young Bactrian camels are precocial, being able to stand and run shortly after birth, and are fairly large at an average birth weight of 36 kg (79 lb). They are nursed for about 1.5 years. The young calf stays with its mother for three to five years, until it reaches sexual maturity, and often serves to help raise subsequent generations for those years. Wild camels sometimes breed with domesticated or feral camels.

Relationship to humans

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Two Bactrian camels at the Cotswold Wildlife Park, Burford, Oxfordshire, England

The Bactrian camel is thought to have been domesticated (independent of the dromedary) sometime before 2500 BC in Northeast Afghanistan[22] or southwestern Turkestan.[23] The dromedary camel is believed to have been domesticated between 4000 BC and 2000 BC in Arabia. As pack animals, these ungulates are virtually unsurpassed, able to carry 170–250 kg (370–550 lb) at a rate of 47 km (30 miles) per day, or 4 km/h (2 mph) over a period of four days. Furthermore, Bactrian camels are frequently ridden, especially in desertified areas. In ancient Sindh, for example, Bactrian camels of two humps were initially used by the rich for riding. The camel was later brought to other areas such as Balochistan and Iran for the same purpose.[24]

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A Bactrian camel at farm in Central Mongolia
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Two camel tomb figure displayed at British Museum, London. Buried in tomb of the Tang general Liu Tingxun who died in AD 728 at age of 72.

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).

United States imports

Bactrian camels were imported to the US several times in the mid- to late 1800s, both by the US military and by merchants and miners, looking for pack animals sturdier and hardier than horses and mules. Although the camels met these needs, the United States Camel Corps was never considered much of a success. Having brought two shipments of fewer than 100 camels to the US, plans were made to import another 1,000, but the US Civil War interrupted this. Most surviving camels of these endeavors, both military and private, were merely turned loose to survive in the wild. As a result, small feral herds of Bactrian camels existed during the late 19th century in the southwest deserts of the United States.[25]

Documentaries

Population

Gallery

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Grubb, P. (2005). "Order Artiodactyla". In Wilson, D.E.; Reeder, D.M (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 645–6. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  2. ^ The mnemonic that allows one to remember the correct English word for each is: "Bactrian" begins with "B", and "Dromedary" begins with "D" – and "B" on its side has two humps, whilst "D" on its side has only one hump.
  3. ^ a b "Bactrian Camel". EdgeofExistence.org. EDGE. 2010.
  4. ^ "Camels – Old World Camels". Science Encyclopedia. Net Industries. Retrieved 29 November 2012.
  5. ^ Potts, Daniel (June 2005). "Bactrian Camels and Bactrian-Dromedary Hybrids". The Silk Road Foundation Newsletter. The Silk Road Foundation. Retrieved 13 January 2013.
  6. ^ a b Cui, P.; Ji, R.; Ding, F.; Qi, D.; Gao, H.; Meng, H.; Yu, J.; Hu, S.; Zhang, H. (2007). "A complete mitochondrial genome sequence of the wild two-humped camel (Camelus bactrianus ferus): an evolutionary history of Camelidae". BMC Genomics. 8 (1): 241. doi:10.1186/1471-2164-8-241. PMC 1939714. PMID 17640355. open access
  7. ^ Groves, C.; Grubb, P. (2011). Ungulate Taxonomy. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 32. ISBN 978-1-4214-0093-8.
  8. ^ de Buffon, C. (1791). Natural History, General and Particular. 6. London, UK: Alexander Strahan. p. 121.
  9. ^ Smith, W.; Anthon, C. (1870). A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (3rd ed.). New York, USA: Harper and Brothers Publishers. p. 204.
  10. ^ Linnaeus, C. (1758). Systema Naturæ Per Regna Tria Naturae. v.1 (10th ed.). Stockholm, Sweden: Laurentius Salvius. p. 65.
  11. ^ Geraads, D.; Barr, W. A.; Reed, D.; Laurin, M.; Alemseged, Z. (2019). "New Remains of Camelus grattardi (Mammalia, Camelidae) from the Plio-Pleistocene of Ethiopia and the Phylogeny of the Genus". Journal of Mammalian Evolution. doi:10.1007/s10914-019-09489-2.
  12. ^ Mukasa-Mugerwa, E. (1981). The Camel (Camelus dromedarius): A Bibliographical Review (PDF). Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: International Livestock Centre for Africa. pp. 1–147. open access
  13. ^ Stanley, H.F.; Kadwell, M.; Wheeler, J.C. (1994). "Molecular evolution of the family Camelidae: a mitochondrial DNA study". Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 256 (1345): 1–6. Bibcode:1994RSPSB.256....1S. doi:10.1098/rspb.1994.0041. PMID 8008753.
  14. ^ Burger, P.; Silbermayr, K.; Charruau, P.; Lipp, L.; Dulamtseren, E.; Yadmasuren, A.; Walzer, C. "Genetic status of wild camels (Camelus ferus) in Mongolia". in press. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  15. ^ Chuluunbat, B.; Charruau, P.; Silbermayr, K.; Khorloojav, T.; Burger, P. A. (2014). "Genetic diversity and population structure of Mongolian domestic Bactrian camels (Camelus bactrianus)". Anim Genet. 45 (4): 550–558. doi:10.1111/age.12158. PMC 4171754. PMID 24749721.
  16. ^ Potts (2004), p. 145.
  17. ^ "Wild camels 'genetically unique'". Earth News. BBC. 22 July 2009. Retrieved 22 July 2009.
  18. ^ Wild Camel Protection Foundation (2010-05-17). "Wild Camels". Retrieved 7 December 2012.
  19. ^ "Bactrian Camel". UltimateUngulate.com.
  20. ^ Wand, C.; Richardson, C. (November 2009). "Replacing Water with Clean Snow for Ewes and Beef Cows" (PDF). OMAFRA.gov.on.ca. Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 2, 2015. Retrieved February 9, 2017.
  21. ^ Chen, B.X.; Yuen, Z.X. & Pan, G.W. (1985). "Semen-induced ovulation in the bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus)" (PDF). J. Reprod. Fertil. 74 (2): 335–339. doi:10.1530/jrf.0.0740335. PMID 3900379.
  22. ^ "camel", Encyclopædia Britannica. 2007. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. accessed 11 February 2007.
  23. ^ Myths About Camels, The Hatch Report.com.
  24. ^ Rahimdad Khan Molai Shedai; Janat ul Sindh 3rd edition 1993; Sindhi Adbi Board Jamshoro,page 20
  25. ^ Zentner, Joe. "The Desert Camel Experiment". DesertUSA.com and Digital West Media, Inc. Retrieved February 9, 2017.

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Bactrian camel: Brief Summary

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The Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus) 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.

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