, scientists at the Camel Reproduction Center
in the United Arab Emirates
successfully crossbred a male camel and a female llama through artificial insemination
, creating the world's first "cama
." The new creature, which they named "Rama," was born on January 14, 1998
. The purpose of the project was to create a new animal combining the most desirable traits of both camels and llamas. Camels and llamas are distantly related, with a common ancestor about 30 million years ago.
Rama's mother Smokey was a 75 kg llama from the South American Andes, and his father was Musehan, a 450 kg dromedary camel. Rama himself is somewhere between a camel and a llama in size, with the long tail and short ears of a camel, but no hump and the cloven hooves of a llama rather than a camel's single footpads.
At present Rama is four years old and in good health. Both camels and llamas can breed at four years, so the scientists are trying to determine if Rama can successfully produce offspring. Rama himself certainly seems willing, having already copulated with several guanacos (South American relatives of the camel), although no pregnancies have resulted.
Many inter-species hybrids, such as mules, are infertile, but unlike mules, llamas and camels have the same chromosome number (74 in each cell), so scientists remain hopeful. Efforts continue to produce other camas and to successfully cross-breed male llamas with female camels.