QuickCheck: Do camels store water in their humps?


There are actually two surviving species of camels, the dromedary camel (shown here), and the Bactrian camel. The way to tell them apart is that dromedary camels have one hump, whereas Bactrian camels have two.

WHEN you think of camels, you think of hot and dry deserts, with no water in sight.

But is it true that camels store water in their humps?

Verdict:

FALSE

Contrary to what cartoons have been showing us about camels, they do not store water in their humps.

Instead, these ships of the desert have fatty tissue stored in their humps, which becomes their source of nourishment in case there is a shortage of food.

When the camel is unable to access food for a long period of time, its body is able to metabolise the fat in the humps for nutrition.

A herd of Bactrian camels. Bactrian camels can be further subdivided into wild and domesticated. They make up less than 10% of the world's population of camels and range from China to Central Asia. Unlike dromedary camels, Bactrians live in snowy areas such as pictured hereA herd of Bactrian camels. Bactrian camels can be further subdivided into wild and domesticated. They make up less than 10% of the world's population of camels and range from China to Central Asia. Unlike dromedary camels, Bactrians live in snowy areas such as pictured here

The humps would then deflate like a balloon and droop, but they will stand straight again once the camel refuels.

Another feature of the humps is to help the creature regulate its body temperature, as temperatures in the desert can be extremely high during the day and drop drastically at night.

So, while it does not store water in its hump, the camel's body has a way of coping with water scarcity in the desert.

According to the national spokesperson at the San Diego Zoo, Rick Schwartz, camels are able to drink up to 114 litres of water in one sitting.

They also excrete dry faeces to retain water, and their kidneys efficiently remove toxins from water in the body so they can retain as much as possible.

It is also reported that camels are able to 'sniff' for water over 80km away.

In the desert, Streptomyces, a soil bacterium, gives off a signature smell on damp ground.

Once that scent is carried on a breeze, it can be picked up by the camel's well-tuned nostrils.

While these facts about camels are amazing, we humans need to hydrate regularly. Remember to drink some water after reading this article.

References:

1. https://www.britannica.com/story/do-camels-store-water-in-their-humps

2. https://www.livescience.com/why-do-camels-have-humps.html

3. https://www.theguardian.com/science/2003/mar/06/science.research

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