Camels, valuable in desert regions throughout the world because of their ability to carry heavy loads over long distances without food or water, are divided into two species, the one-humped dromedary and the two-humped Bactrian camel.
Despite the extremely arid conditions where they are popular, camels also still provide enough milk for human consumption and also have an important role as a source of meat. Camels are specialists when it comes to adapting to the environment. Some characterize them as sustainable food producers.
Pamela Burger and colleagues are interested in the domestication of camels, which took place between 3,000 and 6,000 years ago. Genetic data provide important clues as to the genetic modification - the breeding strategies and selection processes - that were applied by humans during that time. DNA analysis can also address questions on phylogenetic relationships between animals and the group has been first to sequence large parts of the genome of a Bactrian camel and make it available to the public.
Since the genetic code of the Camel had not been fully analyzed, genetic research on these animals was difficult, though the genetic code of some plants and various other animals is publicly available. So the researchers set out to decode the camel genome and learn the relationship among the one- and two-humped species.
The scientists were able to find 116,000 SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms, single base-pair changes within a DNA strand) in the genetic sequence of the Bactrian camel.
The genetic relationship between the Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus) and the dromedary (Camelus dromedarius) is close. 85 percent of the genomic sequences expressed in the dromedary can be found in the Bactrian camel. The genome provides researchers with the basis for further comparative research on other camelids such as dromedary, lama and alpaca.