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Origin and Domestification of the Old World Camelids (Camelini)

The missing link in the history of our livestock species is the understanding of the domestication of the Old World camelids (Camelini). The genetic origin and ancestry of the Bactrian camel (C. bactrianus) and the Dromedary (C. dromedarius) are still in debate, whereas the ancestry of other major livestock species (e.g. cattle, sheep, goat, horse, etc.) has been explored in molecular evolutionary studies. This project aims to identify the genetic origin, the domestication process and the genetic relationship of Old World camelids with molecular genetic methods. Based on archaezoological evidence and results of our preparatory work we propose separate origins and independent evolution of the Bactrian camel and the Dromedary, contrary to previous assumptions of a common ancestry. We hypothesize that (i) the world's last Wild Bactrian camel (C. ferus) populations in Mongolia and China are closely related to the ancestors of the domestic Bactrian camels and that the putative domestication centres lie in the East Asian regions of Northern China, Western Mongolia and Southern Kazakhstan, and (ii) the ancient and today extinct giant camel (C. thomasi) is closely related to, or identical with the wild ancestors of the one-humped Dromedary, which was domesticated on the Arabian Peninsula. Based on molecular evolutionary analysis of samples covering the distribution range of present Bactrian camel and Dromedary populations, and particularly the Wild Bactrian camel, the genetic origin and domestication process will be investigated. In addition, our international cooperation partners will contribute samples for the analysis of ancient DNA from the giant camel (C. thomasi), the Wild one-humped camel (Camelus sp.), and medieval Bactrian camel and Dromedary. Considering that the wild ancestors of our domestic animal species are the reservoir of genetic diversity, this project will contribute to the in-situ conservation of the world's last Wild Bactrian camels and beyond, to the biodiversity of our livestock in the future.
Statistik Austria science classification
106003         Biodiversity research
106012         Evolutionary research
305102         DNA analysis (Forensic medicine)
Ursprung der Altweltkamele
Project leader
Burger Pamela
Type of Research
Basic research
Vetmed Research Units
Institute of Population Genetics
Funded by
FWF - Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung, Sensengasse 1, 1090 Wien, Austria

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6 Publications

Almathen, F; Charruau, P; Mohandesan, E; Mwacharo, JM; Orozco-terWengel, P; Pitt, D; Abdussamad, AM; Uerpmann, M; Uerpmann, HP; De Cupere, B; Magee, P; Alnaqeeb, MA; Salim, B; Raziq, A; Dessie, T [and 9 others] (2016): Ancient and modern DNA reveal dynamics of domestication and cross-continental dispersal of the dromedary. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016; 113(24):6707-6712
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Abdussamad, AM; Charruau, P; Kalla, DJU; Burger, PA (2015): Validating local knowledge on camels: Colour phenotypes and genetic variation of dromedaries in the Nigeria-Niger corridor. Livestock Science 2015; 181: 131-136
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Dalton, DL; Charruau, P; Boast, L; Kotze, A (2013): Social and genetic population structure of free-ranging cheetah in Botswana: implications for conservation. Eur J Wildlife Res (59), 2 281-285.

Burger, PA; Palmieri, N (2014): Estimating the population mutation rate from a de novo assembled Bactrian camel genome and cross-species comparison with dromedary ESTs. J Hered. 2014; 105(6):839-846
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Charruau, Pauline (2012): Insights from evolutionary history and population genetics for domestic and wildlife conservation – cases of the Old World camelids and cheetahs. PhD-Arbeit, Vet. Med. Univ. Wien, pp. 123.
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Silbermayr, K; Orozco-terWengel, P; Charruau, P; Enkhbileg, D; Walzer, C; Vogl, C; Schwarzenberger, F; Kaczensky, P; Burger, PA (2010): High mitochondrial differentiation levels between wild and domestic Bactrian camels: a basis for rapid detection of maternal hybridization. Anim Genet. 2010; 41(3):315-318

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