STL Science Center

STL Science Center

29 October 2011

Images of Camelops

I ran into an interesting lack of illustrations of Castoroides when looking for illustrations today. It could be because it's just a giant beaver and no one is that impressed. This is certainly a possibility. However, after a scouring of the internet, I decided we only needed one image of a giant beaver today and that image is this one right here:
Castoroides, 'nuff said

So, moving along to Camelops now in the picture department. Camelops is a somewhat much debated animal. I say "somewhat much" in that manner because those that do talk about Camelops debate the validity of the reconstructions of it as a living animal. There are many reasons for this including living species being used as examples and geography; these tend to take precedent in discussions over what Camelops would have looked like. The most generic representations is this:

 Why the North American continent suddenly looks like Egypt I cannot say, however, the Smilodon and the Camelops in the painting look quite happy to be doing their predator-prey thing in an arid and desert-like landscape. This scene could perhaps be in an area that is now quite desert-like in our time such as the Mojave and would, that way, be fairly believable. Should that be the case, though, the Camelops in that painting and the Camelops to the left here, which look quite similar, would most likely be the same species. This Camelops is Camelops hesternus and is featured in a montage of herbivores featuring heavily in the still being unearthed contents of the La Brea Tar Pits. Notice how she looks like any camel we see in a picture of Arabia though with very little representation of a hump. This is a point that many of the Camelops aficionados have come to agree upon willingly.

The case is stated that the Camelops and its closest kin are the original camelids (sounds like a bad tupperware brand) and that the camelid family began in and around what would now be the general area of Arizona-New Mexico-California-Old Mexico before spreading north and west over the Bering Land Bridge into Asia and eventually Africa and down into South America. Therefore, the lack of a fatty hump in the Camelops genus makes sense as the fatty hump was an evolutionary adaptation of Asian-African (Dromedary having one hump, Bactrian camels having two humps) camelids that were adapting to low water levels in their newer habitats and compensating through bodily engineering. What also makes sense, therefore, is that the Camelops could have possibly had ears and faces which looked like an alpaca's face and ears much more than the Dromedary and Bactrian camels.

Camel genetics are actually quite intricate. The now extinct Syrian Camel, the living Bactrian, and Dromedary camels all belong in the Camelini tribe of the Camelinae subfamily of the family Camelidae (camel camel camel, for extra confusion for you readers!) whereas the Llama and Gaunaco of the genus lama and the Vicuña and Alpaca of the genus Vicugna all belong in the Lamini tribe of Camelinae of Camelidae. Camelops is of the tribe Camelopini of the family Camelidae, but has 6 species and may very well be the father and mother of all living camel species. I hope this all makes sense. Therefore, it would make sense that the general skeletal construction of Camelops is quite similar to all living species of Camelid. Also, then, the physical features of Camelops could look quite similar to any of the species and therefore we may ahve seen eyes, faces, ears, coloration, humps or lack of humps in Camelops. Dan Reed, who has done a great service to us in the last month with his wonderful depictions of Pleistocene mammals, has done another good work with Camelops, but I shall let his illustration do the talking:
©Daniel Reed

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