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||450-500 kg (992-1102 lb)
||400-600 kg (882-1323 lb)
||320-350 cm (10.5-11.5 ft)
||220-340 cm (7.2-11.2 ft)
||160-180 cm (5.2-5.9 ft)
||180-200 cm (5.9-6.6 ft)
||51-65 cm (1.7-2.1 ft)
||45-55 cm (1.5-1.8 ft)
Data source: Franklin (2011)
- Unlike their llama/vicuna/guanaco relatives, all camel species have:
- At least one hump on their backs
- Long curved necks
- Broad, large feet
- Tufted tails
- Four teats rather than two
- Annual molt
- Domestic camels have been selectively bred over many years
- Hybridization between species has occurred in ancestry of both domestic species
- Large, broad ‘elastic’ pad – hooves are 2 fingernail-like toenails on front of pad.
- Unique among mammals
- Other ungulates walk on tips of hoof-covered toes.
- Wild Bactrian’s hoof is claw-like.
- Composed of fibrous tissue and fat.
- When fat is metabolized, it acts as a source of energy.
- Concentration of body fat in humps is advantage in hot climate
- Minimizes its presence throughout the rest of body
- This reduces heat-trapping that occurs with insulating layers of fat.
- Available nutrition determines size and shape - humps nearly disappear with starvation.
- Not used for water storage.
- Slit-like - can be closed to protect against blowing sand.
- Special nasal cavities moisten air on way in, trap moisture going out.
- Long lashes protect against blowing sand.
- Bony arch over eye acts as sun shield.
- Small and rounded
- Hairs protect ears from blowing sand.
- Prehensile lips, upper split in 2 halves.
- Incisors and canine teeth grow though out life.
Wild Bactrian camel
- 2 humps: small, pointed, conical
- Frame: small and lithe relative to domestic Bactrian; laterally compressed (Mongolian name ‘havtagai’ means ‘flat’)
- Legs: slender, no callosities on knees
- Feet: narrow
- Hair: tan or grayish on body; long and dark brown on upper legs, neck, top of humps, tail
Domestic Bactrian camel
- 2 humps: large, irregularly shaped, may become flaccid and flop to one side in adult
- Shorter than dromedaries
- Legs: short and stout
- Feet: broad, 2-toed, cushioned by fat
- Hair: long and dark; annual molt
- 1 hump: more elastic than Bactrian, shrinks with age instead of flopping to side
- Frame: lighter than Bactrian
- Legs: longer and more slender than Bactrian
- Hair: short, light-colored
Other Physical and Physiological Characteristics
Adaptations for extremely dry environment
- Red blood cells are oval (round in other mammals) Can flow quicker in a dehydrated state.
- Urine is more concentrated than other animals (less water loss).
- Dung is dry.
- The kidneys and intestines are good at retaining water.
- Can tolerate loss of water equal to over 30% of body weight (Franklin, 2011)
- Most mammals die if they lose 15%
- Wild Bactrian camel (not domestic) is able to drink saltwater slush when fresh water is unavailable.
Adaptations for tolerating extreme heat
- Able to endure temperature extremes, from -40°F in January to over 100°F in summer.
- Have only 25% the number of sweat glands as found in cattle
- Only sweat when body temperatures reach 41-42°C (105.8-107.6°F)
- Long legs keep bodies further from the hot ground to reduce overheating.
Adaptations for blowing sand
- Long eyelashes and ear hairs form a barrier against blowing sand.
- Slit-like nostrils can close.
Fat as Insulation
Because fat is concentrated in the hump, and not spread over the rest of the body), it helps a camel stay cooler.
When the fat in a camel's hump is metabolized, it becomes a sourch of energy.
Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.
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