Skip to main content
sdzglibrarybanner San Diego Zoo Global Library

Extinct Western Camel (Camelops hesternus) Fact Sheet: Behavior & Ecology

How Do We Know This?

Since direct observation of a fossil animal's behavior isn't possible, paleontologists use comparison and contrast with living animals for guidance. Tracks can sometimes reveal further clues.

Social Behavior

Social groups

  • Not known but may have been similar to modern camels that form small family groups of 2-20 individuals.

Locomotion

  • Highly adapted for running
  • A pacing gait (feet move together on one side at a time) evolved early in camel evolution (Webb. 1972)
  • Pacing gait appears to have evolved before the spread of grasslands in the Miocene Epoch. (Janis et al 2002)
    • Pacing allowed a long stride and less expenditure of energy for covering wide distances (Webb 1972) (Lockley & Hunt 1995)
    • This gait may be preserved in 15 million-year-old Miocene trackways of extinct camelids from the Mojave Desert (Webb 1972)
  • Fossil camelids in the American Southwest have been called the first prairie schooners for their supposed ability to travel efficiently across the desert. (Lockley and Hunt 1995)

Interspecies Interactions

  • Shared grassland and conifer forest margins with small mammals such as the Northern Pocket Gopher (Thomomys talpoides), a species only found at higher elevations today or in more northern locales (Morgan & Rinehart 2007)
  • Very often found at sites that have bison and horse fossils.

Page Citations

Gauthier-Pilters & (Dagg)
Lockley and Hunt (1995)
Morgan & Rinehartl (2007)
Webb (1972)

SDZG Library Links