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A three-humped camel discovered on the Arabian Peninsula

A three-humped camel colony was discovered this week in Oman, in the Rub al-Khali desert. The species, whose origin is still unknown, could have appeared as a result of global warming.

An incredible discovery has just been made this week in the Rub al-Khali desert on the Arabian Peninsula. A three-humped camel colony has been spotted in Oman in Al-Wusta region near the Saudi border. The camelid, which has been given the name tribocus camelus, is currently a biological enigma.

Two species of camels have been known until now: the camelus bactrianus, or Bactrian camel, which has two humps and is of Asian origin and the camelus dromedarius, commonly known as the camel of Arabia, which has a single hump and is widespread in Arabia as well as in North Africa. A hybrid of the two species exists: the Turkoman. This one has only one hump and is larger than the first two mentioned.

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A mutation due to global warming?

Although the origin of the three-humped camel is still unknown, two hypotheses are now being put forward by the scientific community to explain this discovery. The first is a recent genetic mutation. “It is possible that the colony appeared a few decades ago following a rare mutation in the genome of a camelid in the region,” says Meshal al-Jassim, a researcher at the Faculty of Science at King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

If it is a genetic mutation, the cause could be global warming and the resulting natural selection, according to Meshal al-Jassim: “If the mutation is of natural origin, it could be explained by the rise in temperatures in the region and the need for camelids to have an additional hump to store more water and nutrients.”

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An ancestral species

Ahmad al-Harthi, head of the Department of Archaeology at Sultan Qaboos University of Muscat, Oman, supports another hypothesis. According to him, the three-humped camel is a prehistoric species. “Several rock paintings dating from the second millennium BC and discovered on the Arabian Peninsula suggest that the men of the region used three-humped camels for agriculture and transport,” insists Ahmad al-Harthi.

Prehistoric rock paintings in the Arabian desert suggest that man used to use the three-humped camel in the past

Prehistoric rock paintings in the Arabian desert suggest that man used to use the three-humped camel in the past

But then how can we explain that the species has never been discovered before today? For al-Harthi, the answer is very innocuous. “Recently, an Aboriginal tribe was discovered in Brazil, in the Amazon forest,” he says. This tribe has probably lived for centuries without interaction with the outside world, in an area that is not accessible to man. The three-humped camel was found in the arid vastness of the Rub al-Khali desert where few men venture. It can be assumed that the species has survived all these centuries out of sight.” While waiting to learn more about this new or ancestral species, the KAWA editorial team wishes you a happy April Fool’s Day.

Published on 1 April 2019