Thursday, October 21, 2010
Gobi Desert Diaries: All creatures great and small, part 4.
Although you wouldn’t necessarily know it from this picture, the Bactrian Camel Camelus bactrianusis is the two-humped camel found in the deserts and steppes of Mongolia. When I was growing up, the way to remember which camel was which was to turn the B of Bactrian and D of Dromedary on their sides – Bactrians have two humps, Dromedaries have one. Last winter was very harsh in Mongolia, and millions of livestock died – I wonder if this is the reason that so many camels had flopped-over humps this year.
Camel bones are some of the most common recent bones to find while out prospecting, and there was even one day where I became increasingly frustrated at the sheer volume of recent bone compared to fossil bone. This skeleton is also where I encountered my very first camel tick! They are horrible and persistant!
One of my favourite dead camel finds was a pair of feet with the foot pads still in place. That skin must be incredibly tough. The texture on the bottom of the pad was quite interesting, as well. The runner-up for dead camel finds was the Tremendous Dead Camel, which I deeply regret not photographing. It was obviously recently dead, and all of the wool and sloughed off while leaving the skin intact. I was surprised that it had not been scavenged at all.
The Natural History Museum in Ulaanbaatar has a little room dedicated to the Bactrian Camel and has this great skeleton. Much has been written about camel necks in the blogosphere lately – see SV-POW’s The Cambridge Camel is Just Plain Wrong, Maybe All the Camels are Wrong, The Oxford Camel is Just Plain Cheating, and The Paris Camel is Just Plain Dumb. I wonder what the Ulaanbaatar Camel would be?
Male Bactrians have FANGS! My guess is that these are probably used during rutting season, but I certainly would not like to be nipped by an angry camel. And camels seem to be angry, or at least somewhat irritated, most of the time.
This I do not totally understand, but I enjoy greatly.