MORPHOLOGICAL DIVERSITIES AND ECO-GEOGRAPHICAL STRUCTURING OF ETHIOPIAN CAMEL (CAMELUS DROMEDARIUS) POPULATIONS
The objectives of this study were to identify and characterize indigenous camel ecotypes and to assess phenotypic diversity and relationship of camel populations in Ethiopia. A total of 494 heads of camels were investigated for phenotypic characterization. The study involved Jijiga, Liben, Gelleb, Hoor and Shinille from Somali as well as Amibara and Mille camel populations from Afar national regional states, which are the major camel rearing areas. The results showed that average barrel and heart girths of Liben camel population were significantly (p<0.05) larger than the remaining camel populations. Gelleb camels were significantly (p<0.05) superior for morphological variables particularly height at shoulder, chest depth, chest width and hip width to other camel populations examined. Females of Amibara camel population recorded significantly (p<0.05) lower values for traits mentioned above as compared to other camel populations. The greatest morphological divergence was observed between Mille and Shinille followed by the difference between Amibara and Shinille camel populations. The least morphological divergence was detected between Hoor and Gelleb followed by that between Amibara and Mille camels in aggregate gender. Quantitative and qualitative study indicated that Jijiga and Hoor camel populations are milk type whereas Liben and Gelleb camel populations are meat type. The principal component analysis showed that body height traits and body height together with body shape traits explained most of the shared variability in female and male camel populations, respectively. The canonical analysis identified two canonical variables to be significant (p<0.0001) and sufficient to classify all camels studied. Combined differences among all morphological variables categorized these seven Ethiopian camel populations into five major camel groups. Therefore the findings from this study can be used for the description of body conformation, characterization, improvement and conservation of various camel populations in the country.
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