The scientists have unearthed the skeleton of a camel living in the 17th century at the time of the second Ottoman-Habsburg war. The skeleton was unearthed in a refuse pit along Danube River in Tulln, Austria.
Calling it a ‘sunken ship in the desert’, the researchers said that the camel may have been an ‘alien’ along the river.
Alfred Galik, study co-author from the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, said, “Camels are alien species in Europe and Austria, the town of Tulln is closely situated to the large river/stream of the Danube.”
“The ‘sunken ship’ phrase must bring together this buried/sunken ship of the desert with the Danube and Tulln, places where no camels appear naturally,” Galik said.
According to the researchers, the discovered camel was may be a valuable riding animal as no clear arthritis signs was found on its bones. The researchers believe that symmetrical marks present on the blades of the camel’s shoulder and parts of its humerus bones may have resulted due to the stress imposed by a rider while getting on and off of the animal.
The researchers closely studied camel’s DNA and the bones and found that the animal was born from unusual parents. The animal’s dad was a Bactrian camel (two-hump), while its mother was a dromedary (one-hump).
Galik said that the cross between the two-hump Bactrian and the one-hump dromedary resulted in a camel with one large hump.
“Such crossbreeding was not unusual at the time. Hybrids were easier to handle, more enduring and larger than their parents. These animals were especially suited for military use,” Galik said in a statement.
The million dollar question arises that how the camel got to Tulln. The researchers speculate that the animal may have come from the Ottoman army when Tulln was attacked during the war, Galik said.
The study also showed that the camel was an adult male and may have been older than seven years at the time of its death.
The dead remains of the camel were uncovered in a natural ‘postdeath’ position, i.e. the animal’s legs was pulled up toward its body and its neck was bent backward.
The findings of the study were published online in the journal PLOS ONE.