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Dromedary Camel (Camelus dromedarius) | by Dallas Krentzel
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Dromedary Camel (Camelus dromedarius)

Sony alpha-300 DSLR, with ~10s exposure using a small LED flash light to illuminate areas selectively.

 

Camels are very cool animals. You'll notice the fangs at the front of the mouth (on the right) that males use for fighting. These fangs are actually modified incisors and the smaller posterior fangs are the actual canines. The other upper incisors are lost in maturity and the upper palate resembles more advanced artiodactyls such as bovids with a toothless upper snout and a bottum jaw filled with large shovel like incisors anteriorly (these aren't visible in this photo). The back molars are rather larger and selenodont (meaning moon-teeth, which refers to the cresent shapes that increase surface area for their wash-board like chewing) as seen in most ungulates.

 

Despite the similarities in dentition with some of the more advanced artiodactyls (the ontogenic reduction of upper incisors and selenodont molars), camels, along with llamas and kin, belong to the suborder Tylopoda, which is the most basal group of extant artiodactyls. This means that pigs, peccaries, hippos, whales, and dolphins are all more closely related to cows, goats and antelopes than camels and other camelids are. If you're not familiar, pigs, peccaries, and hippos have prominent incisors and canines throughout life and molars/premolars that look more like a human than a deer or cow. Thus, tylopods actually do not represent a gradation to the ultimate derived artiodactyl form, they're actually a completely independent lineage that, through convergent evolution, ended up looking like modern artiodactyls in their dental structure. It helps to understand that camelids (along with horses) evolved in North America and were relatively isolated from the Old World, where artiodactyls began their diversification. Thus, camelids and equids became something like the equivalent of bovids and cervids in North America until landmasses moved around and the taxonomic groups became thoroughly mixed across the globe.

 

Last note: you may notice the enamel chipping away on the teeth of this specimen, and that is what happens when you bleach a skull too thoroughly. Wasn't me though.

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Taken on February 13, 2010