Bactrian camels thrive in conditions considered harsh by many standards: very dry, cold, high elevations. Researchers now suspect their physiological adaptations of high blood sugar, high salt diets, and increased body fat may have evolved to help the animals cope with their environment. For humans, those symptoms could lead to heart disease, but for the Bactrian camel, they are considered physiological, i.e. totally normal.
A paper published in Nature Communications describes the genomic variations in wild and domesticated Bactrian camels. What they found was that genes involved in metabolism were evolving at an accelerated rate in the camels as compared to other ruminants, like cows. Some of the rapidly-evolving genes are involved in the regulation of insulin signaling and therefore may help to better understand the evolution of insulin regulation and diabetes. They also found that camels have multiple copies of a gene (CYP2J) involved in hypertension, whihc may protect the animals from hypertension despite ingesting high salt diets.
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