How the camel became a pet

Researchers solved the mystery of the domestication of dromedaries

Camels have always been used as a means of transport © Raziq Kakar
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Frugal desert ships: For the first time researchers have deciphered the origin of the domestication history of dromedaries. Genetic analyzes show that the use of camels as pets began on the southeast coast of the Arabian Peninsula. Despite consistent breeding the dromedary kept a high genetic diversity compared to many other pets. This makes the livestock so tough, frugal and strong.

Whether dog, domestic cattle or horse: Man has domesticated many animals throughout his history - as a faithful companion, meat supplier or means of transport. The history of dromedaries is also closely interwoven with that of humanity. They transported goods, people and ideas across enormous distances.

The successful career of the single-humped Arabian camel as a transport animal began sometime 3, 000 years ago. It finally reached an enormous spread: throughout North Africa, in the Horn of Africa, Southwest Asia and in the Middle East to India. Throughout history, dromedary has contributed significantly to trade and the development of social structures in inhospitable areas. To date, the frugal animal has retained its high priority in many cultures.

Where did the use as a pet begin?

But how exactly it came to the domestication of the desert ships, about it was surprisingly little known. "We did make a pet out of the wild dromedaries, but we do not know how and where domestication began and how it affected today's camels, " researchers at Faisal Almathen, University of Nottingham, explain. The team has now dedicated an extensive study to the charismatic farm animal.

The scientists analyzed up to 7, 000-year-old genetic material from bone finds of wild and early domesticated camels and compared them with the genetic profiles of today's dromedaries. For the first time, it was possible to identify the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula as the place where the use of camels as pets began. display

"It seems to be confirmed that the first domestication of wild dromedaries originated from the southeast coast. This was followed by repeated introductions of wild camels into the early domesticated groups, "writes the team. The wild ancestors of today's dromedaries lived spatially limited and died about 2, 000 years after the first domestication, the scientists explain.

Caravans received genetic diversity

The genetic studies also revealed another interesting result: in dromedaries there is great genetic diversity and not the low diversity of genetic material typical of breeding. When humans domesticate an animal, they usually filter out the genetic material of those animals that bring the most benefit. Apparently this was not the case with the dromedary.

According to the researchers, genetic diversity probably has a connection with the use of the dromedaries as transport animals: Through the change of location, different groups of camels met again and again. Thus, the genome was mixed regularly and the genetic diversity was preserved.

Diversity in genetic material is known to make species of animals strong. This feature now fits well into the existing image of the dromedary: No other livestock is as z h, gen gsam and yet powerful as the legendary Vessel. (PNAS, 2016; doi: doi: 10.1073 / pnas.1519508113)

(PNAS, Veterinary Medical University Vienna, May 10, 2016 - DAL)