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“Ships of the desert”, camels come from the genus Camelus and are distinguished by the fatty deposits, known as humps, on their backs. Domesticated for more than 3,000 years, the camel is a working animal that thrives in the desert, acting as a mode of transportation for passengers and cargo.
See the fact file below for more information on the camels or alternatively, you can download our 23-page Camel worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
ORIGIN OF CAMELS
- Camels and their llama relatives are extant to two continents, with true camels being found in Asia and Africa, and llamas being found in South America. They are not found in North America.
- According to the evolutionary theory of descent with modification, it would be assumed that camels once existed in North America but reached extinction.
- One proposal for the fossils found in North America is that camels originated there before migrating across the Bering Strait into Asia, across Africa, and through the Isthmus of Panama into South America. Once isolated, they evolved along their own strains, resulting in the modern camel in Asia and Africa and the llama in South America.
- On top of the two species of camels, living members of the Camelidae family consist of two other genera with two species each, Lama (llama, guanaco) and Vicugna (alpaca, vicuña). In some instances, the term camel is applied more broadly to represent any of the six camel-like creatures in the family Camelidae – the two true camels and the four South American camelids.
- Although recognized as ruminants – any even-toed hoofed animal that consumes food by eating the raw material and vomiting a semi-digested form known as cud, and then chewing the cud – camelids are not classified under the suborder Ruminantia but rather Tylopoda.
- Ruminantia consists of widely known ruminants, such as cattle, goats, sheep, giraffes, bison, buffalo, deer, and antelope, to name a few.
- Compared to those ruminants, camelids possess a three-chambered digestive tract, an upper lip that can be divided in two with each part being separately mobile, an incisor in the upper jaw, elliptical red blood cells, and a unique type of antibody that does not have the light chain, aside from the normal antibodies found in other species.
- Since they do not have tensor skin to link the thigh and body, camelids have slender legs that look longer still. They also lack hooves, instead having two toes with toenails and a soft footpad. The main weight of camelids is defined by these tough, leathery sole-pads.
- Among the two camel species, the Dromedary camel is indigenous to the dry, desert areas of western Asia and East Africa, and the Bactrian camel is endemic to Central and East Asia. In addition to the Bactrian camel having two humps and the Dromedary having only one, the former seems to be a bit stockier, hardier animal that can survive intense desert heat of northern Iran, as well as the frozen winters in Tibet. The Dromedary camel, on the other hand, is taller and faster.
- Adult camels stand about 6 feet tall at the shoulder and 7 feet tall at the hump. The hump grows about 30 inches out of its back. They can also run up to 40 mph in short bursts and maintain speeds of up to 25 mph.
- They are expected to reach an average lifespan of 60 years.
- Humans started to domesticate camels between 3,500 to 3,000 years ago. Studies show that the Bactrian camel was tamed and cultivated separately from the Dromedary camel sometime before 2500 B.C., while the Dromedary was tamed between 4000 B.C. and 2000 B.C.
- Camels are easily recognized by their iconic humps. However, these humps do not serve as water storage, as is commonly believed. Their humps are a reservoir of fatty tissue. When this tissue is metabolized, it turns into their main source of energy and converts 1,000 grams of fat to 1,111 grams of water.
- Their ability to endure long periods without water is caused by a series of physiological adaptations. Their red blood cells are elliptical in shape, compared to other mammals whose red blood cells are circular. This feature allows oxygen flow in a dehydrated state. These oval-shaped red blood cells also let camels withstand high osmotic variation without rupturing when drinking large amounts of fluid.
- Their kidneys are able to excrete urine that comes out as a thick syrup and dry feces that can fuel fires.
- A feature of their nostrils is that large amounts of water vapor are trapped and returned to the camel’s body fluids as they exhale, thus lowering the amount of water lost through respiration.
- They are able to endure at least 20 to 25% weight loss as a result of sweating. Their blood stays hydrated even though body fluids are lost, until this 25% limit is hit.
- Camels that feed on green herbage can absorb enough moisture in milder conditions to keep their body hydrated even without drinking.
- Camels are also able to tolerate changes in body temperature and water content. Their temperature ranges from 93°C at night to 106°C during the day, and only above this range will they start to sweat. The upper body temperature constraint is sometimes not reached during the day in milder climatic conditions. Thus, the camel may not sweat at all the entire day. Evaporation of their sweat occurs at the skin level, not at their coat, which is very effective at cooling the camel’s body compared to the amount of water lost through sweating. This adaptation to fluctuate body temperature and the effectiveness of their sweating lets them preserve about five liters of water daily.
- Their thick coat reflects sunlight, so a shorn camel has to perspire 50% more to prevent overheating. This feature also protects them from intense heat that radiates from the hot desert sand. Their slender legs help to keep them out of reach of the hot ground.
- Their mouth is muscular, with the ability to feed on thorny desert plants. Aside from their sealable nostrils, the camel’s long eyelashes and ear hairs create an efficient barrier against sand. Widened feet and moving both legs on one side at the same time let them travel and wander without sinking into the sand.
DISTRIBUTION AND NUMBERS
- Currently, an estimated 14 million Dromedary camels are domesticated, mostly found in Somalia, Sudan, Mauritania, and other nearby countries.
- Bactrian camels used to have high numbers, but their population declined to an estimated 1.4 million individuals, most of which are domesticated. It is assumed that there are about 1,000 wild Bactrian camels that inhabit the Gobi Desert in China and Mongolia.
- Camels provide milk, meat, and wool, aside from being employed for military use. Dromedaries in western Asia and the Bactrians further to the north and east in Central Asia are considered to beasts of burden.
- They are also the only animals to have replaced the wheel, mainly in North Africa. They were among the modes of transportation in these areas until the wheel was combined with the internal combustion engine during the 20th century.
- Camel milk is a staple desert food for nomadic tribes, and it is usually richer in fat and protein compared to cow’s milk.
- Camel carcass also provides sufficient amounts of meat. The brisket, ribs, and loin are among the ideal parts, but the hump is also considered a delicacy.
- Bactrian camels have two coats that produce approximately 7 kilograms of fiber in clumps annually.
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the camels across 23 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Camel worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the camels which come from the genus Camelus and are distinguished by the fatty deposits, known as humps, on their backs. Domesticated for more than 3,000 years, the camel is a working animal that thrives in the desert, acting as a mode of transportation for passengers and cargo.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Camel Facts
- Hey Camel
- Camel Anatomy
- Extant Species
- Camel Quiz
- Test Yourself
- Growing Up Camel
- Know Your Facts
- Camel Wiki
- What’s On the Plate?
- Camel Jingle
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Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.