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Extinct Western Camel (Camelops hesternus) Fact Sheet: Taxonomy & History

How Do We Know This?

Like living animals, fossil remains of once-living animals are classified and grouped according to their relationships to each other and to their ancestors.

Taxonomic History & Nomenclature

Scientific Name: From the Latin word "hesternus" meaning "of yesterday" - Yesterday's Camel.

Common Name: Yesterday's Camel or the Extinct Western Camel

The camel family is divided into two main tribes; living species today include:

  • Old World dromedary and bactrian camels
  • New World guanaco, llamas, alpaca, and vicunas.

Camelops is more closely related to llamas than to modern camels (Webb et al 2006)

Six species of Camelops have been named, but the genus is in need of revision. (Kurtén & Anderson 1980) (Dalquest 1992)

A very large individual Camelops has been discovered that may be either C. hesternus or a new species. (Webb et al 2006)

Evolutionary History

The camelid family began in North America some 45 million years ago in the Eocene Epoch. (Whistler and Webb 2005)

  • Sheep-sized Poebrotherium is the most primitive camel-like ancestor. (Janis et al 2002)

A drying trend that produced the first areas of true savanna in North America coincided with the rise of camels. (Webb 1977)

A small camel, Miotylopus, lived in southern California, around 28 million years ago.

New DNA studies imply that the two camel family tribes diverged some 25 million years ago, much earlier than previously believed. (Cui et al 2007)

Between 20 and 14 million years ago, some 13 genera of camels flourished throughout North America. (Honey et al 1998)

By 7 million years ago, camels had spread to other continents, as did the horses. (Whistler and Webb 2005)

During the Pleistocene, at least five genera of camels lived in North America. (Dalquest 1992)

At end of the Pleistocene, both camels and horses in North America were extinct.(Kurtén & Anderson 1980)


Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Artiodactyla (pigs, camels, deer, giraffes, cattle, and their kin)

Superfamily: Cameloidea

Family: Camelidae

Subfamily: Camelinae

Genus: Camelops

Species: Camelops hesternus (Leidy, 1873) - Western Camel or Yesterday's Camel (extinct)

Page Citations

Cui et al (2007)
Dalquest (1992)
Honey et al (1998)
Janis et al (2002)
Kurtén & Anderson (1980)
McKenna and Bell (1997)
Webb (1977)
Whistler and Webb (2005)

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