What adaptations does a camel have to survive in its environment?

Camels have a number of adaptations which help them survive in their desert environment.

  • The most obvious is that camels have a hump (or two if they are bactrian camels) which stores fat, which metabolises for energy. This enables the camel to go without food and water for a long period of time. The hump does not store water.
  • When they do access water, they can drink up to 46 litres of water in one session.
  • Camels have two rows of long eyelashes to help protect them against the desert sand.
  • They can close their nostrils, also for the purpose of keeping out sand.
  • They also have hair lining the inside of their ears to protect their ears from the sand.
  • Their legs are long and strong, and their feet are split hooves with broad pads which splay out over the desert sand for more stability, preventing them from sinking into the sand.
  • Their thick, leathery knees do not get burnt by the hot sand when they kneel.
  • Camels have thick fur and underwool which acts as insulation against both the hot desert days and the cold nights.
  • Camels' lips are thick and leathery, which enables them to eat prickly desert plants without it hurting their mouths.
  • A camel's internal temperature can fluctuate with the conditions - this is an advantage because it helps the camel conserve water by not sweating as the external temperature increases.
  • Camels absorb water in their blood, and their erythocytes (a type of blood cell) swell to almost 240% than their normal size without bursting.
  • A camel's kidneys can concentrate urine to reduce water loss; in turn their urine will become very syrupy and thick and be extremely salty.
  • The colour of their bodies helps them to blend into their environment.