Discovering the Desert / Change Over Time

Camel Camelops hesternus

Camel (Camelops hesternus)

Animalia, Mammalia, Artiodactyla, Camelidae

Camelops hesternus was the size of a modern dromedary camel, with longer legs and steeply sloping hindquarters. An ancestor of today’s North African and Asian camels, it was once common in North America. This fossilized metacarpal, a bone nearest to the foot, was found in the Pinto Basin.

While dry and arid today, the fossil and geologic records reveal that the Pinto Basin contained a lake and braided river system 2.6 million to 11.7 thousand years ago. The Pleistocene environment would have been much cooler and wetter, supporting many types of now extinct large mammals. Paleontological surveys continue to discover evidence of North American camel, horse, and mammoth.

L 16, W 5.5 cm
Joshua Tree National Park, JOTR 24695