Until 13,000 years ago camels roamed North America. Today the camel family's (Camelidae) natural range is Eurasia, Africa (camels) and South America (alpacas, guanacos, llamas and vicunas). With a modern distribution that has an obvious gap (North America) and the morphology of the fossil North American Camelops, which is similar to the South American species of camelidae, it had been proposed that Camelops may have been a distant ancestor to the llama. However, recent genetic work on fossil bones instead shows that Camelops is more closely related to the old-world bactrian and dromedary camels.
Recent advances in paleogenomic technologies have enabled an increasingly detailed understanding of the evolutionary relationships of now-extinct mammalian taxa. However, a number of enigmatic Quaternary species have never been characterized with molecular data, often because available fossils are rare or are found in environments that are not optimal for DNA preservation. Here, we analyze paleogenomic data extracted from bones attributed to the late Pleistocene western camel, Camelops cf. hesternus, a species that was distributed across central and western North America until its extinction approximately 13,000 years ago.