Camel DNA shows secrets of hump-backed survivor

Nov 13, 2012
Dromedary camel, Camelus dromedarius. Credit: Jjron/Wikipedia

Scientists in China said on Tuesday they had sequenced the DNA of the wild bactrian camel, a threatened species with an extraordinary ability to survive in extreme conditions.

The genetic code of Camelus bactrianus ferus—a two-humped camel that now numbers less than 900 in the wild—reveals 20,821 genes, many of them providing the metabolic tools to cope with days without food and water and a diet based on tough desert vegetation.

A team led by He Meng at Shanghai Jiao Tong University unravelled the genome of an eight-year-old male camel called Naran from a nature reserve in Mongolia's Altai province.

Bactrian camels are descendants of even-toed ungulates which diverged from a around 55-60 million years ago, they found.

The DNA book could shed light on the camel's "remarkable and unusual immune system," said the study, published in the journal Nature Communications.

Wild bactrian camels live in the deserts of northwestern China and southwestern Mongolia, where they endure fierce heat and bitter cold, and sparse grazing.

In the course of a day, the camel's body may vary from 34 degrees Celsius (93.2 degrees Fahrenheit) to 41 C (105.8 F).

Camels consume eight times more salt than cattle or sheep and have twice the of other , yet do not develop diabetes or hypertension.

They also make unique disease-fighting proteins called heavy-chain antibodies, which interest pharmaceutical engineers.

Explore further: Gene doubling shapes the world: Instant speciation, biodiversity, and the root of our existence

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Catching camels in the Gobi

Nov 11, 2011

In Oct. 2011 Professor Chris Walzer and Dr. Gabrielle Stalder, veterinary scientists at the Research Institute of Wildlife Ecology at the Veterinary Science University, Vienna, successfully attached GPS satellite collars ...

Dubai claims world's first cloned camel

Apr 14, 2009

The United Arab Emirates on Tuesday claimed its own version of Dolly the sheep, the world's first cloned mammal, after the birth of a cloned camel in Dubai this month.

Drought, culling hits Australia's feral camels

Jul 24, 2012

Australia's feral camel population has dropped by an estimated 250,000 in recent years, but the arid outback is still home to the world's largest wild herd, officials said Tuesday.

Recommended for you

MaxBin: Automated sorting through metagenomes

23 hours ago

Microbes – the single-celled organisms that dominate every ecosystem on Earth - have an amazing ability to feed on plant biomass and convert it into other chemical products. Tapping into this talent has ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

KalinForScience
5 / 5 (1) Nov 13, 2012
I do not understand why it is so difficult to put a photo of the bactrian camel (the subject of this article), but instead you showed the dromedary one?