Why Camels have Humps

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Why camels have humps

A camel lives in a zoo.  Well, the ones most of us see do!  But do you know where camels are usually found in nature and what is inside those humps on their backs.

There are two types of camels.  The dromedary, or Arabian, camel has a single hump and resides mainly in West Asian deserts.  The Bactrian camel has two humps and can be found in the dry deserts of Central and East Asia.

Camels are desert dwellers.  There is, as you know, not always enough water in a desert.  Many people mistakenly believe that the humps on a camel’s back are a place where they store extra water.  But, though Camels are designed in a way that helps them conserve water, their humps are filled only with fat!

Camels store fatty tissue in their humps, sometimes as much as 80 pounds of fat.  And, though water is not stored there, the camel’s body can break the fat down into water and energy when there is not enough food and water available. 

Camels, like humans, have blood that is mostly water (94%).  Unlike humans, however, a camel can lose up to 40% of the water in their blood safely!  Their bodies have adapted to working efficiently during water loss as well as conserving water in their arid climes. 

Camels sweat very little and have some physical adaptations that aid them in water restricted areas. Their red blood cells are oval shaped, instead of circular like ours, so the cells can move more easily. They have nostrils that can trap water vapor when they breath out and return it as body fluids.  Those nostrils are “sealable” also so sand doesn’t get in.  The camel’s coat reflects sunlight and insulates their bodies from intense heat.  Their long legs keep them further from ground heat.  Long eyelashes and ear hair also help to keep sand out.  Camels have exceptionally sturdy mouths and can eat thorny plants in the desert.  Sometimes they can get enough moisture from the plants they eat to maintain hydration without actually drinking water.

Camels are a beast of burden in desert lands.  Because of the structure of their internal bodies they can travel up to 100 miles in the desert without drinking more water.  The fat in their humps is used to produce the energy and fluids for them to continue.  Sometimes their humps will actually shrink and droop as the camel keeps trudging along.  But, after their long journeys, they will find food and water and, in just a few short weeks, their humps will regain their normal “fat” size.

For more information on camels check out the following interesting links!




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From Around the Web

  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camel
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://fohn.net/camel-pictures-facts/arabian-camels-3.html
  • InfoBoxCallToAction ActionArrowhttp://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/dromedary-camel.html