What do camels store in their hump ? A camel’s hump does not hold water at all – it actually stores fat. The camel uses it as nourishment when food is scarce. If a camel uses the fat inside the hump, the hump will become limp and droop down. With proper food and rest the hump will return to normal.
The hump is not used for water storage, but camels can go for long periods of time without water. They drink large amounts of water – up to 20 gallons at a time. This water is stored in the animal’s bloodstream.
Do Camels Store Water in Their Humps?
Camels have long been known for their ability to go weeks at a time without needing to drink water—an ability that makes them particularly useful pack animals for people traveling across arid environments and that earned them the nickname “ships of the desert.” Camels are also known for their prominent humps (either one or two humps, depending on the species), which leads many people to believe that these are used to store water for access at a later time. However, camels’ humps actually store fatty tissue, not water, which is used as a source of nourishment when food is scarce.
So why do camels store fat in these humps instead of having it spread equally throughout their bodies, like other mammals? Camels typically live in the desert, where food sources can be hard to come by. When a camel is unable to access food for a long period of time, its body is able to metabolize the fat in the humps for nutrition. The humps can deflate and droop if the camel has gone a particularly long time without food, but they will sit upright again once the camel is able to refuel.
The camel’s humps also help the animal regulate its body temperature, an important feature in the desert, where temperatures can be extremely high during the day and drop drastically at night. By concentrating fatty tissue in humps on their backs, camels are able to minimize heat insulation throughout the rest of their body during the day when the temperature is high, and their body temperature rises. Then, at night, the extra heat dissipates through the rest of the camel’s body so that their body temperature is not too low when the temperature is cooler.
Although the humps do not store water, camels are still incredibly efficient in the amount of water they use per day, which is why they are able to go nearly a week without drinking. This is partly due to the unique shape of their blood cells, which are oval. Oval-shaped blood cells allow camels to consume large amounts of water (up to 30 gallons in one sitting!) since the cells are more elastic and can change shape more easily. This shape also allows their blood to flow more easily when water is scarce, which is common in a desert.
A camel’s humps are incredibly important for the animal’s survival in a tough environment like a desert. Without its humps, a camel would be more likely to overheat and sweat—but it’s still the oval-shaped blood cells that help the camel retain so much water, not the humps.
Do camels really have water in their humps?
To survive in the desert, camels store water in their humps, right? Not quite. Although camels do have tricks to make the most of water they find, their humps aren’t one of them. So why do camels have humps on their backs?
The answer: fat storage.
“They deal with dry seasons when food and water is scarce,” said Rick Schwartz, an animal care supervisor and national spokesperson at the San Diego Zoo. When food is available, camels eat enough calories to build up their humps so they can survive long periods of time when food is scarce. With a “full” hump, a camel can go up to four or even five months without food, Schwartz said. When camels use up their fat, their empty humps flop over like a deflated balloon until they eat enough to “inflate” them again, Schwartz said.
Camel calves aren’t born with these fat deposits and don’t grow them while they are nursing. “All the energy they’re getting from mom is going to the growth of the body,” Schwartz told Live Science. Young camels begin to wean when they are 4 to 6 months old, although their humps don’t start to form until they are 10 months to a year old. “But as the wild camels are dealing with the cycles of the seasons, they need to have some sort of hump within that first year,” Schwartz said. “They have to make it through that first dry season.”
There are two species of camels. Bactrian camels (Camelus bactrianus) live in parts of western China and Central Asia, and they have two humps. Arabian camels (Camelus dromedarius) are more common and have only one. But as far as Schwartz is aware, the extra hump does not allow Bactrian camels to go longer without food.
Although many animals store fat around their stomachs and sides, camels pack on the pounds vertically. One theory is that camels have a stomach callus which they lay directly in the sand, and belly fat could make it harder to lay this way, Schwartz said. Another theory is that being tall and narrow, with fat stored in humps instead of around the sides, means camels are exposed to less sunlight and less heat.
Because camel humps store food, the dromedaries need other ways to cope with water scarcity. For example, camels can can drink up to 30 gallons (114 liters) of water in one sitting, they excrete dry feces to retain water, and their kidneys efficiently remove toxins from water in the body so they can retain as much as possible, Schwartz explained. Camels have several other ways to make each drink of water go far, such as by catching moisture from every breath they exhale through their nose.
This incredible ability to make do with less water is “probably why the myth came about that if they go so long without water, they must be storing water in the humps,” Schwartz said.
WHY DO CAMELS HAVE HUMPS?
Every animal has unique characteristics that make it different from other animals. A giraffe has long legs and a really long neck. A rhinoceros has a large horn on the front of its face. A tiger is a huge cat with stripes, and a zebra looks like a horse with stripes. The camel, however, is known for its large hump. Which brings us to the question, why do camels have humps anyway? What is the function of their hump? Does it really hold water? Keep reading to learn more.
One of the camel’s most distinctive features is its hump. In this post, we’ll study the camel’s hump and explore its role in the camel’s bodily processes. What is the hump’s purpose? Although they’re handy for riders to hang onto as they travel to faraway lands, there must be a better reason for camels to have them.
A HUMP IS A CAMEL’S ENERGY STORAGE
The camel’s hump is where the camel stores fat. Camels use this fat for energy when and where food is hard to find. People who buy and sell camels even use the size of the camel’s hump to determine how healthy the camel is. The bigger the hump, the healthier the camel. A well-fed camel’s hump won’t droop or look deflated.
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