|Dromedary, Camelus dromedarius|
Camels are mammals of the Camelidae family. Camels form the genus Camelus. They are also called Afro-Asiatic Camelids. There are two living species of camels. Camels have existed on Earth since pre-historic times.
Habitat and adaptation [change]
Camels live in deserts, where it is hot and dry. Camels have adaptations that help them live in deserts. They have a thick coat of hair that protects them from the sun. They have wide, soft feet, so they can walk a long time in the hot sand.
Several adaptations help a camel save water. When there is food and water, a camel can eat and drink large amounts and store it as fat in the hump. Then, when there is no food or water, the camel uses the fat for energy, and the hump becomes small and soft. A camel’s waste contains very little water. Even the water from the camel’s breath flows back into its mouth.
A camel has a naturally adapted thermostat - it can change its bodily temperature by six degrees Celsius either way. It has two sets of eyelashes, closing muscles in the nasal passages with slited nostrils, hairy ears and tough, leathery skin to protect the camels skin in vital emergencies such as a sandstorm. It has thick rubbery lips to eat dry, prickly plants and a large, haired tail to swat pests such as mosquitos and flies.
It has a long slender neck in order to reach high leaves such as palm trees, and rubbery patches on the belly and knees to protect the skin when kneeling and sitting on the hot sand. These form after five years of age.
Camels live in groups, with one male, several females, and their young calves.
In the desert, people feed camels with grass, grains, wheat and oats. When camels are travelling in the desert, food is often very hard to find. So the animal might have to live on dried leaves, seeds, and thorny twigs (without hurting their mouths). If there is not any regular food, camels will eat anything: bones, fish, meat, leather, even their owner's tent.
Camels are ruminants but camels do not chew their food very well before swallowing. The first stomach stores the food that is not completely chewed. Later, this food (or cud) returns to the camel's mouth, and the camel chews it again. Then the camel swallows the cud and it goes to the other parts of the stomach to be completely digested.
Camels and humans [change]
As domesticated animals they are used in Africa, Asia, and since the 19th century also in Australia. About 900-1000 wild Bactrian Camels still live in China and Mongolia. There are no wild Dromedaries anymore, but there are escaped domestic Dromedaries in Australia. Today there are about 50,000 Dromedaries living wild in the Outback in Australia.
A Dromedary and a Bactrian Camel can have hybrid children that are called Tulus or Bukhts. These hybrids are larger than the Dromedary or Bactrian Camel, and have either one long hump or one small and one big hump.
When a camel calf reaches one year of age, the owner often teaches it to stand and kneel on command. They also learn to carry small, light packs around. As they grow older, the size of the pack also increases.
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