The disappearance of the giant camel

It was three meters tall and weighed one ton. It lived for about a quarter of a million years in Central Asia. This species of giant two-humped camel is called Camelus Knoblochi. What caused the disappearance of the giant camel? Apparently, humans played a role.

Archaic humans may have contributed to the end of the giant camel.
Archaic humans may have contributed to the end of the giant camel.

Living with humans

The study appeared in Frontiers in Earth Science. It explains that the camel was in Mongolia until about 27,000 years ago. There it coexisted with anatomically modern humans and perhaps with the extinct Neanderthals or Denisovans. The main cause of extinction seems to have been climate change. But hunting by archaic humans may also have played a role.

“Climatic and environmental changes pushed it to extinction about 27,000 years ago.” So concludes Dr John W Olsen, professor at the University of Arizona, Tucson.

Mongolia is home to one of the last two wild populations of the critically endangered wild camel, C. ferus. The giant camel coexisted with this species during the late Pleistocene. Inter-species competition may have been a third cause of extinction.

Bones of the giant camel were found in caves.
Bones of the giant camel were found in caves.

Disappearance in the desert

There are fossil remains suggesting that archaic people coexisted and interacted there with C. knoblochi. Elsewhere, at the same time, they coexisted with the wild camel.”

Many bones of the giant camel were found in Tsagaan Agui cave in 2021. They were found in association with bones of many other animals. Wolves, cave hyenas, rhinoceroses, horses, wild donkeys, mountain goats. This indicates that it lived in montane steppe and lowland environments. These are less dry habitats than those of its modern relatives.

The disappearance of the giant camel, according to the authors, was largely due to its difficulty in adapting. It was less tolerant of desertification than the present-day camels, C. ferus, the domestic Bactrian camel, and the domestic Arabian camel C. dromedarius.

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