Skip to main content
sdzglibrarybanner San Diego Zoo Global Library

Extinct Western Camel (Camelops hesternus) Fact Sheet: Physical Characteristics

How Do We Know This?

Careful study of fossil bone or tooth anatomy yields much exact information about placement and strength of muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels. In rare cases, skin and hair impressions or actual skin or hair is preserved. Body weight is more difficult to gauge because fat leaves no impression on the skeleton.

Physical Characteristics

AttributeWestern Camel
Estimated Body Weight up to 800 kg (1764 lb)*
Estimated Height at Shoulder 2.2 m (7 ft)

* 20 % larger than than modern camels that weigh 650 kg (1,433 lbs)

General Appearance

General

  • A medium to large-sized camel with foot structure like that of modern camels (Janis et al 2002)
  • Not known with certainty whether Camelops had a hump.(Webb 1965)
  • Fossils in the genus Camelops are best distinguished by stocky foot bones with a unique ligament scar on the last toe bones.

Teeth  

  • High crowned (hypsodont) teeth adapted for an abrasive diet
  • No third premolars in the lower jaw (Webb 1965)
  • Although molar teeth have been used to identify many species of Camelops, these teeth have limited diagnostic value. (Dalquest 1992)

Pelage  

  • Unknown but most likely similar to modern dromedary and bactrian camels

Sexual Dimorphism

  •  Differences seen in size of lower jaws, length and robustness of limb bones.

Other Characteristics

  • As in all camelids, long toe and finger bones (medapodials) allow for a long stride and a pacing gait (Webb et al 2006)
  • Hand and foot bones are good indicators of size for Camelops species.
  • Limbs are long.
  • The two toes of Camelops are splayed wide to give support and stability (Webb 2006)

Page Citations

Dalquest (1992)
Janis et al (2002)
Webb (1965)

SDZG Library Links