Camels’ DNA, in particular that of dromedaries, or one-hump camels, was influenced by trade routes running through the Arabian Peninsula and North Africa, a newly-released study suggests. This is the first major survey that analyzes the DNA sequencing of dromedaries.
The survey, co-authored by Olivier Hanotte from Nottingham University, in the UK, analyzed samples from 1,083 camels from all continents and compared them with those taken from early domesticated dromedaries or camels currently living in the wild. According to researchers, samples from animals as old as 7,000 years was used during the research.
Originally domesticated in the southeast Arabian Peninsula, camels have been used from Australia to Asia to carry goods. Upon studying the genetic makeup of camels from all these different locations, researchers discovered, on the one hand, that the camels had surprisingly similar genetics. That is because, the study argues, camels’ DNA was shaped by the ancient trade routes used by humans. Moreover, upon completing a trip, the exhausted camels would be replaced with other ones for the return journey. As a consequence, dromedaries from different regions developed in a very similar way, as they were subjected to nearly identical factors. On the other hand, the subjects were found to have high genetic diversity. This was put down to the fact that, once traveling on the trade routes, typically those leading to the Mediterranean, dromedaries interbred with other one-hump camels living in the wild.
Although a part of human existence since ancient times, being used for carrying goods for over 3,000 years, camels have not been subject to many studies. Therefore, the current study serves not only to determine the genetic profile of dromedaries currently populating the planet but also holds important clues about our own past.
The diversity of camels’ DNA could be beneficial to humans in the future, the study’s authors suggest. Specifically, when faced with the consequences of climate change, such as a rise in global temperatures and overall extreme weather conditions, camels could prove more resilient. Moreover, camels can source humans with meat, milk as well as leather. Compared to, for example, other livestock, such as cattle and sheep, that are much more sensitive to climate change, camels could prove a good substitute.
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