Camels are the most famous wild animals that live in the desert. They are a symbol of this inhospitable environment and are well known for their two humps. They are so accustomed to arid climates that they can withstand up to 40% dehydration. Also, these animals can survive weeks without drinking water or eating. The capacity of dehydration is surprising if we compare it with that of a human being who, when reaching 12% dehydration, causes death.
If you want to learn all about the Camel, this is your place. In this WildAnimals article, we will talk about how camels survive in the desert, what they eat, how they reproduce, and more. Let us do it!
Main characteristics of the camels
One of the characteristics of camels is their great height and their humps. These are found on the back (two in the case of camels, and one in the case of dromedaries). The height of a camel can be 1.85 m if we measure up to the shoulders and 2.15 if we take into account the humps.
The color of camels varies in shades of brown and beige, approaching a cream color. They have small ears compared to his head. However, they have a great sense of hearing.
Another characteristic of camels is their flat legs, which have two toes each. These legs are very functional in sandy areas because when they step on the sole of the leg expands, thus preventing the camel from sinking. Besides, they have a thick layer of leather on the legs, which protects them from the intense heat of the arid soil.
What is the home of Camels?
These animals are perfectly designed for their harsh and ruthless habitat: the desert. They belong to the desert and arid zones of Asia and Africa, particularly in the Sahara desert.
All the characteristics that we mention allow them to live without problems in these places, which can reach extreme temperatures of more than 120 degrees during the day and at night temperatures below zero. It is also challenging to have access to water and vegetation, as it is also very scarce.
On the other hand, although they are known to be a means of transport for people in those areas, the camel is a wild animal. Its behavior can become aggressive, and because of its large size and strength could represent a danger to humans. He is also accustomed to living freely.
Where did camels originate?
Scientists think that the ancestors of camelids appeared in North America in the Pliocene. At the end of which, three million years ago, they migrated to Asia across the Bering Strait.
In Asia, two groups separated to become the two main types of camels known today as the Dromedary Camel and Bactrian Camel.
What do they feed on?
They are herbivorous animals. Because they are found in a habitat with little vegetation, they adapt very well to what they have within their reach. They eat almost all the plants and vegetation around them, including some cacti and dry branches.
These wild animals are famous for being the means of transport for those who move through the desert. So when they live with humans, they are fed wheat, oats, fruits, and herbs, something they love.
Camels, being mammals, reproduce in a viviparous way. They usually have one calf per birth, and every two years, so the population and reproduction of camels are usually somewhat low.
The gestation has a duration of 13 months. A few hours after birth, the calf can stand up and walk, and its mother feeds it through her mammary glands. Also, it will remain close to its mother until it becomes an adult, that is at 5 years of age.
What are the predators of camels?
In some countries, the natural predator of the camel is the wolf, mainly because it hunts the young.
However, the greatest threat to this animal is humans. Due to the displacement of their habitats, many shepherds chase them away from their favorite places to live, so that their animals are there. They are also hunted for sport.
Types of camels
There are three types of camels:
1- Wild Bactrian camel (Wild species)
This species is a close relative of the domesticated Bactrian camel. The species is native to the Central Asian steppes and has a double hump. Until recently, wild Bactrian camels were believed to have descended from domesticated species that became wild after escaping captivity.
Nevertheless, a more recent analysis of the mitochondrial DNA of the two species suggests a divergence between 0.7 and 1.5 million years ago, long before domestication took place.
The wild Bactrian camel is classified as a critically endangered species with a small population in the deserts of Taklamakan and Gobi.
Within their limited range, wild Bactrian camels are found in arid plains and hills and feed on shrubs as their primary food source.
Camels roam in groups of 2 to 100 for long distances in search of food and water.
2- Camel Dromedary (Domestic species)
It is a kind of camel, also known as the Arab camel. It is a species of the camel with only one hump.
It is the smallest of the three species of camels that still live.
Males usually weigh between 400 and 600 kg, unlike females that vary between 300 and 450 kg.
The essential characteristics of this camel are:
- The narrow chest
- The simple hump
- The long, curved neck
- Long hairs on the hump
Camels live in herds of 20 individuals, and a dominant male leads the herd.
3- Bactrian camel (Domestic species)
It is a species of the camel that lives in the steppes of Central Asia.
The Bactrian camel has a population of approximately 2 million, existing mainly in the domesticated form. It is the largest species of living camels.
This camel has a length of 220 to 350 cm from head to body and a tail length of 35 to 55 cm. They weigh between 300 and 1,000 kg.
How long can a camel go without drinking?
If we are in winter, it is believed that a camel can last up to 50 days without drinking anything at all. On the other hand, in summer it is said that they can last between 5 and 10 days without drinking.
These data vary according to the physical activity that the animal is carrying out.
How camels survive in the desert?
Thanks to his hump
There is a popular belief that a camel’s hump is filled with water. That is a lie. It is full of fat. In a hump, they can store up to 36 kilos of fat. This fat, the camel can metabolize it to produce water, food, and energy.
A summary of the process would be the following: the hydrogen of the camel mixes with the oxygen, thus producing water. By half a kilo of fat, the camel gets half a liter of water. The camel begins to lose weight in this process. The hump begins to shrink and can even slide to one side. As soon as the camelid feeds again, its hump returns to an upright position.
The camel’s ability to feed is another of the secrets to its survival in the desert. In just 15 minutes, a camel can drink about 140 liters of water. From that moment on, it will start producing fat again.
Another of the most important points of metabolism in your water supply is your blood. As we saw before, the camel gets its water from the fat of its humps. On the other hand, other mammals, even if they have fat, die dehydrated because they hydrate themselves through the water in their blood.
The characteristics of camel blood
- On the one hand, at times when the camel is dehydrated, its blood becomes less dense so that it can circulate more easily. As soon as the animal recovers, its blood also returns to its normal state.
- On the other hand, the blood of a camel can withstand temperatures of 6 degrees.
Other features that help camels survive in the desert
The shape of the camel’s body, with its slender neck and long legs, favors refrigeration. Also, the height of its limbs gets away from the heat that the ground moves.
The coat also influences. The camel has short and uniform hair distributed throughout his body. With it, it avoids that the sun rays affect it in a direct way. But also, when the ambient temperature is higher than that of his body, the coat not only does not give heat but helps to reduce it.
Another characteristic that favors the camel’s water-saving is that they hardly sweat. The temperature has to be over 40 degrees for a camelid to sweat.
Because it lives in arid climates, where there is a high probability of sandstorms, the ears are protected by a large amount of hair. In addition, their eyes are covered by two rows of eyelashes, which protect them from the sand, preventing it from penetrating them.