The Incredible Dromedary Camel

Most of us living in America have only a very superficial acquaintance with the camels we see in the Middle East. We have all heard that they spit, and that they can go a long time without water. We know that they are important beasts of burden to people living in the desert, but the design of these animals is one of the most unusual design systems in nature.

Camels can eat just about anything. Virtually all plants in the Arabian desert can be eaten by the camel because its mouth is so tough that even a thorny cactus does not bother the camel. They will eat rope, leather, shoes, or any number of plant species. The dromedary camel has one hump which weighs about 80 pounds and is filled with fat--not water as many people think. This hump is a reserve food supply, so that the camel can survive even with long stretches in which food is not available. As the camel's body draws fuel from the hump, the hump shrinks. When food is found the hump will grow back to its normal size.

Rider on a camelA camel's capacity for water is incredible. Camels have been known to drink twenty-seven gallons of water in ten minutes. This water is processed so quickly that ten minutes after drinking the water, there is none in the stomach. It is stored in the flesh of the camel. The camel's blood can lose up to 40% of its water and still function. Human blood is 94% water. If a human loses 12% of the water in their blood he will die, and serious medical problems develop with a 5% loss. Camels have elongated red blood cells that apparently allow them to do their job even when much of the water has been lost. Camels can carry a four-hundred-pound load a hundred miles across the desert and go eight days without food or water. In one case, the animal lost 227 pounds but was healthy and alert.

The camel's nose is also an incredibly well designed system. The nose traps the moisture in the camel's breath and absorbs it in nasal membranes. Tiny blood vessels in those membranes take the moisture back into the camel's blood. There are also special muscles in the nose that close the nasal opening so that sand cannot get in, but air can. The camel's eyelashes arch over their eyes like screens that keeps the sand and the sun's brightness out. If a sand grain does get in there is an inner eyelid that automatically wipes the sand off the eye like a windshield wiper. The camel's feet have tough leathery skin between the toes so they will not sink into the sand.

Camels may appear to us to be very ugly, but they are incredibly designed to be the "ships of the desert," and their design speaks eloquently of their designer. Source of data: Moody Magazine 9/81.

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