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Discovery Magazine 8/1/2010

Cool Camels are Hot to Trot

Camels may live in some of the hottest places on Earth, but they are some of the coolest(and comical) creatures that God ever created. Just one look at their skinny legs, knobby knees, webbed feet, humped back, long neck, stretched face, bushy eyebrows, and big, floppy lips, and you can’t help but chuckle. Just be careful not to laugh at a camel too long: you might irritate him. And, if you bother him too much, he might just bite you, kick you, or even “spit” at you. Well, it is not really saliva (which humans are fond of spitting). Camels actually burp up partly digested food (called “cud”) and spray their agitators by flinging the greenish gunk from their floppy lips. You may not have to worry about this with well-trained camels, but if you agitate a crabby camel, WATCH OUT!

One-Hump Wonders

Some camels have two humps. These camels are known as Bactrian [BACK-tree-un] camels and live mostly in Central Asia. The most common camel on Earth, however, is the one-hump Arabian camel, known as the dromedary [DROM-i-dair-ee] camel. 

As a kid, I often heard that a camel can go long periods of time without drinking “because he stores large amounts of water in his hump.” It is true that a camel can go long periods of time (days or even months) without drinking, but he does not store water in his hump. God made a camel with the ability to store fat in his hump. A healthy, well-fed camel can have a hump that weighs as much as 80 pounds. When a camel goes on long journeys (often carrying people or supplies) and food becomes scarce, he relies on stored fat for energy. The longer a camel goes without eating, the more stored fat he uses. At the same time, however, the hump gets smaller and smaller, and often begins to hang off to one side. Later, when the camel is able to get his fill of food again, his hump begins to fill out and goes back to normal.

The Creator’s Conserver

How is it that a camel can go days, or even months, without a drink of water? What have scientists learned about the amazing, God-given design of this water-conserving creature?

First, a camel can get a large amount of the water his body needs from the plants that he eats. This is especially true in the winter time when plants hold more moisture than in the summer months. A camel can even get water from eating cacti (plural of cactus) without hurting his mouth. Can you imagine eating a cactus? A camel can consume such a prickly plant because God gave him a very tough lining in his mouth—so tough that the thorns of a cactus cannot break through the skin.

Second, unlike most animals, a camel loses very little of his water in the form of sweat. God made the camel so that the less water that is available to him, the less he sweats.

Third, camels do not lose great amounts of moisture when they exhale. God designed the nose of a camel with a special mucous that helps to dehydrate (take water out of) much of the moist air coming up from his lungs, recirculating the water throughout his body. Rather than losing great amounts of moisture when he exhales, a camel can conserve as much as 60% of his water.

A final reason that camels can go several days without water in the summer time and several months without water in the winter time, is because they can drink so much of it when it’s available. A thirsty camel can drink more than 20 gallons of water in only 10 minutes! Remarkably, a camel’s stomach may be empty only a few minutes after taking in such a large amount of water. How can this be? Because God designed the camel with billions of small cells that store all of the water so the camel will have it at a later time when water is scarce (such as when he is on a journey through the desert).

Mindless evolution cannot logically explain the wondrous design of the camel. No, the cool, comical, conserving camel is an amazing creature that testifies to an awesome Creator.



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