Did the archaic human contribute to the extinction of the giant camel by mass hunting? This is the hypothesis put forward in a new study developed by an international team of researchers and published in the journal Frontiers in Earth Science.
Camelus Knoblochi, a two-humped camel weighing one ton and three meters tall (nothing to do with the wild camel species Camelus ferus which can reach 1.2 meters and weigh an average of 110 kilograms) lived in Mongolia until recently . approximately 27,000 years. And the last of these species coexisted with anatomically modern humans and who knows if also with Neanderthals, which is why the researchers suggest in this work that hunting by archaic humans could have influenced their disappearance along with the climate change.
Camelus Knolochi is “related” to modern Bactrian camels, which include its wild version ( Camelus ferus ) and its domesticated version ( Camelus bactrianus ). And Mongolia was probably the last home of this giant camel before it went extinct, according to the study.
Scientists studied fossils of the extinct species Camelus Knoblochi from the Tsagaan Agui cave in the Gobi Altai mountains of southwestern Mongolia. Fossilized remains of the giant camel have been found along with artifacts left behind by Paleolithic inhabitants. One of the bones showed signs of butchery by humans, probably to extract protein-rich marrow, and these archaic humans would not only have been Homo sapiens , but also Neanderthals and Denisovans.
One metacarpal bone, dating to between 59,000 and 44,000 years ago, bears butchery marks as well as another series of incisions made by hyenas, said Arina M. Khatsenovich of the Russian Academy of Sciences. The remains were found along with bones of wolves, cave hyenas, rhinos, horses, wild donkeys, mountain goats, wild sheep, and Mongolian gazelles.
“Fossil remains of C. Knoblochi from Tsagaan Agui Cave, which also contain a rich and stratified sequence of Paleolithic human cultural material, suggest that Archaic peoples coexisted and interacted there with C. Knoblochi and elsewhere, at the same time, with the wild Bactrian camel ”, exposes John W. Olsen, professor emeritus in the School of Anthropology of the University of Arizona, Tucson and co-author of the work.
These animals would have been crucial for human existence not only to be used as transportation, but also for their multiple resources: milk, meat, wool, bones… Thus, although there is not enough material evidence regarding the interaction between humans and the giant camel, the team believes that the former probably did not target the latter for domestication.
Fossils indicate that C. knoblochi lived in lowland and mountainous steppe environments, less dry habitats than those of its modern relatives, such as the critically endangered wild Bactrian camel ( Camelus ferus ).
C. knoblochi is known to have lived for about a quarter of a million years in Central Asia, its last stronghold being Mongolia.
What pushed the giant camel to extinction?
The main reason appears to have been climate change, according to the study’s authors. “Here we show that the extinct camel, Camelus Knolochi , persisted in Mongolia until climatic and environmental changes pushed it to extinction about 27,000 years ago,” Olsen concludes.
Referencia: Alexey M. Klementiev et al. First Documented Camelus knoblochi Nehring (1901) and Fossil Camelus ferus Przewalski (1878) From Late Pleistocene Archaeological Contexts in Mongolia. Frontiers in Earth Science. , 14 March 2022 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.3389/feart.2022.861163