How do camels hold back water so well?
What do camels look like?
Dromedaries and trample belong to the camel family and to the so-called callous soles. This group of animals is so named because the soles of their feet are padded with thick, springy calluses.
They have no hooves, just very small, fingernail-like structures that protect the front edge of the feet. The calluses on the feet ensure that the weight of the animals is distributed on the loose sandy soil and that they do not sink in. In the trample these calluses are wider than in the dromedary.
Camels have thick callouses on the sternum, elbow, heel and knee.
Camels are powerful animals: they have a shoulder height of 2.3 to 2.5 meters. They measure between 2.2 and 3.4 meters from the snout to the bottom. The tail grows to 50 to 70 centimeters long, and they weigh between 450 and 650 kilograms.
Trample often get a little heavier than dromedaries.
Typical are the long legs, the long, downwardly curved neck and the humps: dromedaries have one hump, the trample have two humps.
Both types of animal have a fairly thick coat of frizzy, woolly hair. It can have different shades of beige and brown, but it can also be white or even black.
Since the camel animals live in a region that gets very cold in winter, they get a very thick, long coat during this time of the year.
If it gets warmer again in spring, this winter fur comes off in large tatters, so that the animals look really torn.
A typical feature is also the pace: the animals move their right and left front and rear legs forward simultaneously.
The camel's upper lip is split and the nostrils are slit-shaped. They can be closed and are thus protected from sand.
The camel family originated in North America about 40 to 50 million years ago. About two million years ago they migrated over the Bering Strait to the Old World, i.e. to Asia and Africa. They are extinct in North America. The llama-like came to South America during the Ice Age and survived there.
Where do camels live?
Dromedaries are only found in Arabia and North Africa. There they occur mainly on the edge of the deserts such as the Sahara. Dromedaries have been introduced to Australia and have settled in well there. Some of them have run wild.
Bactrian camels - also known as Bactrian camels - live in Central Asia. There they come from Kazakhstan via Mongolia to northern China and are kept as pack animals.
There are no longer any wild dromedaries, and wild camel animals are very rare: only about 950 of them should live in the Taklamakan desert, in the Chinese province of Xinjiang and in the Mongolian part of the Gobi desert.
The habitat of the dromedaries are the hot deserts and semi-deserts of North Africa and Arabia. They do not tolerate a damp climate.
Bactrian animals are also adapted to life in the desert. But they have to withstand much greater temperature fluctuations than dromedaries:
In the deserts of Central Asia it can get up to 40 ° Celsius in summer and down to -30 ° Celsius in winter.
What types of camels are there?
The two Old World camels - the single-humped dromedary and the two-humped trample - are so closely related that they can even reproduce with one another. Crosses of dromedaries and trample are called tulus or bukhts: They have either an elongated or a smaller hump.
Some researchers even refer to the wild-living trample of Central Asia as a separate species, namely "salt water camels", because these animals even drink salty water and can tolerate it very well.
The New World camels in South America include llamas, guanacos, alpacas and vicuñas. They are all much smaller than the trample and dromedaries, have no humps and also have no thick sole pads on their feet.
How old do camels get?
Camels can live to be 40 to 50 years old.
How do camels live?
Contrary to what many believe, camels do not store water in their humps, but up to 200 kilograms of fat and connective tissue.
The fat can be converted into water in a complicated metabolic process with the help of oxygen - indirectly they serve as a water reservoir.
In cool weather and when they eat juicy, water-rich food, camels can do without additional water for weeks.
In addition, the hump protects the body from the sun by absorbing the heat.
The metabolism of camels is also completely adapted to saving water: the kidneys withdraw a lot of water from the urine so that it is not lost to the body. The excrement hardly contains any water either.
The body temperature of the camels drops very sharply at night. During the day, the body is only warmed up very slowly.
They only start to sweat at a body temperature of 41 ° Celsius. So you hardly lose any liquid.
During a dry season, camels can lose 27 percent of their body weight without dying of thirst.
If you find water again, drink 100 to 150 liters at a time. This is possible because they do not have round, but oval blood cells:
Therefore, you can drink a lot in a short time without the body becoming overhydrated.
Camels are also bred to provide fur, meat, fat, and milk. They give eight to ten liters of milk a day. Specially grown milk dromedaries even hold up to 20 liters.
Clothes and blankets are made from the long fur of the trample.
Finally, the camels' droppings are used as fertilizer and fuel.
Friends and enemies of the camel
Most dromedaries and trample live as pets. They don't usually have enemies. Even wild camel animals have hardly any enemies, but they are hunted by humans, although this is strictly forbidden.
How do camels reproduce?
The mating season for dromedaries is between January and March and for trampoline animals between February and April. The stallions can become very aggressive during this time. They fight each other and sometimes even attack people. The sticky foam that hangs from your mouth and flies through the air when you move your head is typical at this time.
Camels mate while lying down. The gestation period lasts for a long time: with the dromedaries, the mare withdraws from the herd for a short time twelve months after mating and gives birth to a young. The gestation period for the trample can last up to 14 months.
The foal weighs around 30 to 50 kilograms. A short time after birth, it can stand on its thin legs and follow its mother. Both then return to the herd.
The young will be suckled for one to one and a half years, but will soon begin to nibble on dry blades of grass. After two months, it will eat plants regularly. The animals become sexually mature when they are three to four years old. The females give birth to a young about every two years.
How do camels communicate?
Young camels can yell and moan pitifully when looking for their mother. Camels have what is known as a bellowing sack in their throat. With it, especially the males can give out loud screams during the mating season.
What do camels eat?
Camels are very frugal animals, they can get along with very little or even without food for a long time.
They are pure herbivores.
Their diet consists of hard grasses and they do not stop at the thorny branches of many acacia species. They even eat salty plants.
Dromedaries are kept as livestock in North Africa and Arabia. It was only with their help that people were able to colonize the deserts of North Africa.
Today we even keep dromedaries as mounts. In Central Asia, trample still serve as transport and pack animals.
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