The skeletal remains of a 17th century camel that lived during the second Ottoman-Hapsburg war have been discovered in Austria.
Alfred Galik a researcher at the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna and one of the scientists who worked on the study detailing the discovery told Live Science in an email, “In Europe and Austria, camels are ‘alien species’ in the town of Tulln, situated closely to the large river of the Danube. The “sunken ship” phrase should bring together this buried sunken ship of the desert, with Tulln and the Danube a place where no camels naturally appear.”
This camel was probably a prized riding animal, since researchers found no signs of arthritis on the camel’s bones. Relatively, symmetrical marks on the shoulder blades and parts of the humerus bones possibly were the result from the stress of a rider getting on and off the camel.
The camel had odd parents. Its father was a Bactrian camel, two-hump, and a dromedary or a one-hump mother, the researchers concluded after examination of the bones and analyzing the camel’s DNA. The cross between a one-hump dromedary and a two-hump Bactrian resulted in one large hump camel, Galik said.
“Such crossbreeding was usual at the time. Hybrids were easier to handle, larger and more enduring than their parents. These animals were especially suited for military use,” Galik said in a statement.
The researchers speculated that perhaps the camel came from the Ottoman army when Tulln was attacked, Galik said.
“That means the body was not butchered, and the flesh was not used, which is not a typical behavior, especially during war,” Galik said. The residents of Tulln may not have wanted to ingest the flesh of the camel because it was such an “alien animal,” he added.
The camel was an over 7 year old adult male, upon its death and whose remains were found in a natural “postdeath” position, the researchers found.
The journal PLOS ONE detailed the research online.