Arabian camels (Camelus dromedarius) have trekked across ancient caravan routes in Asia and Africa for 3,000 years. But it’s unclear how camels’ domestication has affected their genetic blueprints.
To find out, Faisal Almathen of King Faisal University in Saudi Arabia and his colleagues combed through the DNA of 1,083 modern camels and ancient remains of wild and domesticated camels found at archaeological sites going back to 5000 B.C.
Camels run high on genetic diversity thanks to periodic restocking from now-extinct wild populations in the centuries after their domestication, the team reports May 9 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Travel on human caravan routes also created a steady flow of genes between different domesticated populations, except in a geographically isolated group in East Africa. That diversity may give some camel populations a leg up in adapting to future changes in climate, the authors suggest.