Genetic history of camels revealed
Use by human societies in primordial trade routes has shaped the genetic diversity of the camel, famously known as the 'ship of the desert,' finds an interesting study of its ancient and modern DNA.
Single-humped 'Arabian camels', properly known as 'dromedaries' (Camelus dromedarius), have been fundamental to the development of human societies, providing food and transport in desert countries, for over 3000 years.
Researchers analysed genetic information from a sample of 1,083 living dromedaries from 21 countries across the world.
The findings showed that they were genetically very similar, despite populations being hundreds of miles apart.
Centuries of cross-continental trade caused this "blurring" of genetics, the researchers explained.
"Our analysis of this extensive dataset actually revealed that there is very little defined population structure in modern dromedaries. We believe this is a consequence of cross-continental back and forth movements along historic trading routes," said Olivier Hanotte, professor at Nottingham University in Britain.
"Our results point to extensive gene flow which affects all regions except East Africa where dromedary populations have remained relatively isolated," Hanotte added.
For the research, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, the team combined an examination of ancient DNA sequences from bone samples from early-domesticated dromedaries from 400-1870 AD and wild ones from 5,000-1,000 BC to reveal for the first time ever a historic genetic picture of the species.
"The genetic diversity we have discovered underlines the animal's potential to adapt sustainably to future challenges of expanding desert areas and global climate change," noted Faisal Almathen from King Faisal University in Saudi Arabia.
The dromedary continues to be a vital resource in trade and agriculture in hot, dry areas of the world, providing transport, milk and meat where other species would not survive.