What Are Camels Related To?

Camels we know today are closely related to South American llamas, alpacas, guanacos, and vicunas. All of these camelids are part of a biological mammalian camel family (Camelidae). Camels and horses, on the other hand, are not that closely related.

what are camels related to

In biology, taxonomy is a branch of science that names and classifies organisms based on their shared characteristics. These organisms are grouped into taxa (singular: taxon) and the more groups are clustered together, the higher rank that cluster will have. 

This taxonomic hierarchy goes like this: kingdom > phylum > class > order > suborder family > tribe > genus > species.

Taxonomic hierarchy
Taxonomic hierarchy

Camels belong to the Animalia kingdom, Chordata phylum, Mammalia class, Artiodactyla order, Tylopoda suborder, Camelidae family, Camelini tribe, and Camelus genus

There are 3 species of camels in existence today:

  • Domesticated one-hump dromedary camel (Camelus dromedarius)
  • Domesticated two-humped Bactrian camel (Camelus bactrianus)
  • Wild two-humped Bactrian camel (Camelus ferus)

Now, let’s explain the question “what are camels related to” in-depth.

Camels Are Closely Related To Llamas And Alpacas

Bactrian and dromedary camels, llamas, alpacas, vicunas, and guanacos are referred to as camelids. Bactrian and dromedaries are the Old World Camels and llamas, alpacas, vicunas, and guanacos are the New World Camels.

These camelids are all closely related and belong to the same Animal kingdom, phylum Chordata (Vertebrates), Mammal class, order Artiodactyla, suborder Tylopoda, and the Camelidae family. 

Taxonomy of the camel family
Taxonomy of the family Camelidae

This is where their relations stop. Camels are members of the Camelini tribe, while the llamas and alpacas are members of the Lamini tribe.

Camelini tribe includes one genus of camels, the Camelus, while the Lamini tribe includes 2 genera, Lama and Vicuna.

Genus Lama includes domesticated llama (Lama glama) and the wild guanaco (Lama guanicoe), while the genus Vicuna includes domesticated alpaca (Vicugna pacos) and wild vicuna (Vicugna vicugna).

At a point in the past, camels, llamas, and alpacas had a common ancestor. Then, some 16.3 million years ago (9.4-25.3), members of their tribes separated from one another. [1]

The ancestors of the Old World camels migrated into Asia over the Bering land bridge around 6.5–7.5 million years ago while the progenitors of the New World camels entered South America around 3 million years ago. 

We have separate articles on the kinship between camels, llamas, and alpacas where we go more in-depth about their history and relations.

Further reading: How llamas are related to camels 

Further reading: How alpacas are related to camels

Camels Are Not Closely Related To Horses

Camels and horses share some relations, but they are not that closely related. Camels are more closely related to llamas, and alpacas, while horses are more closely related to donkeys and zebras.

taxonomy tree of ungulates
Taxonomy tree of ungulates

Camels and horses are both members of the same Animal kingdom, they are both members of the same Chordata phylum, and they belong to the same class of mammals. 

However, horses and camels are not members of the same order.

Camels belong to the order of even-toed ungulates that bear their weight on an even number of toes, Artiodactyla. Horses, on the other hand, belong to the Perissodactyla order which includes hooved mammals with the odd number of toes.

They also belong to different families; camels to the Camelidae family, and horses to the Equidae family.

Some 80 million years ago, camels and horses shared a common ancestor in North America, and similar to camelids, horses spread to Europe, Asia, Africa, and South America, before becoming extinct in North America.

Further reading: How related horses are to camels

Camels Are Not Closely Related To Moose

Similar to horses, camels and moose share some relations, but they are not closely related. They are even-toed hoofed mammals and belong to the same order, Artiodactyla. Their connection stops here, as they belong to different families. 

Further reading: How related moose are to camels

Camels Are Not Closely Related to Giraffes

Despite sharing a long neck and slender-elongated legs, camels and giraffes are not very closely related. Similar to moose and horses, camels and giraffes are members of the same order; they belong to different families.

Further reading: How related giraffes are to camels

TL;DR – What Are Camels Related To?

Camels are closely related to llamas, alpacas, guanacos, and vicunas. All of these species are members of the same camel family, they are all even-toed ungulates, mammals, and vertebrate animals. However, they are not the same species. Camels and horses had a common ancestor some 80 million years ago, but they are not that closely related.

Camels were also considered to be a part of the order Pachydermata. However, that is not the case.

We hope you found our article interesting and that we managed to answer the question “what are camels related to” properly.


References

[1] Wu, Huiguang, et al. “Camelid genomes reveal evolution and adaptation to desert environments.” Nature communications 5.1 (2014): 1-10.

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