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Camels (extant/living species; Camelus spp.): Reproduction & Development

Camels (Camelus spp.)

Courtship

Male

  • Experiences rut in cooler / wetter seasons (greatest availability of food)
    • Peak rut in the Gobi: late January/February
  • Develops a dulaa (sack-like extension of the soft palate).
    • Triggered by rising testosterone levels
    • Used to produce a mating call: male blows through the dulaa to push it outside the mouth (looks like a red balloon) and uses saliva to create a low gurgle.
    • Size of dulaa indicates male's virility to female
  • Marks territory with secretions from poll glands (on back of neck, between ears).
    • Rub necks on any solid object.
  • Urinates on own tail and swishes it over its back
    • Urine contains female-attracting pheromones.
  • Exhibits aggression toward other males.
  • Becomes extremely active - collects a harem with as many as 10-20 females (Bannikov, 1976)

Female

  • Undergoes estrous cycle in breeding season: receptive 3-4 days, non-receptive following 10 days.
  • Bleats to indicate receptive.
  • Approaches male, presenting hind quarters.
    • Urinates constantly.
    • Flips tail up and down – short quick movements.
  • Dulaa also present in females but never extruded.

Reproduction

Reproduction

  • Only ungulate that copulates in a “sitting” position.
  • Reproduction rate: 2 year interval (minimum).

Gestation and Birth

Gestation

  • ~1 year (12-14 months).
  • No reports of twins.
  • Most young born at end of March / April.

Birth

  • Female becomes restless, and separates from the other animals.
  • Calf size dependent on the size of its parents. ~35 (25 kg – 52 kg) males larger than females.
  • Front legs of calf appear first - then head.
  • Calf’s drop to the ground breaks umbilical cord.
  • Only ungulates that do not lick and clean baby. Sniff extensively and help the calf find milk.
  • Mother is protective – won’t accept orphaned young (these must be hand-raised)

Life Stages

Infant (< 1 year old)

  • Precocious young – stand and walk shortly after birth.

Juvenile

  • Starts to eat grass around 2 - 3 months old.
  • Weaning at 1-2 years.

Adult

  • Reach adulthood: females ~3-4 years, males around ~5-6 years.

Longevity

(Franklin 2011)

Bactrian camel

  • Up to 35 years

Dromedary camel

  • Wild/feral animals: 20-35 years in the wild
  • Domestic animals: maximum of 40-50 years

A Long Time in the Womb

Bactrian mother and calf

A female camel is pregnant for at least a year.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Global. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Bannikov (1976)
Franklin (2011)
Yagil (2006)

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