The two species of true camel are the single-humped Arabian camel, or dromedary, Camelus dromedarius, a domesticated animal used in Arabia and North Africa, and the two-humped Bactrian camel ( C. bactrianus ) of central Asia. Some wild Bactrian camels exist in Turkistan and Mongolia. The humps are storage places for fat. Camels range in color from dirty white to dark brown and have long necks, small ears, tough-skinned lips, and powerful teeth, some of which are sharply pointed. The camel uses the mouth in fighting. Adaptations to desert life include broad, flat, thick-soled two-toed feet that do not sink into the sand the ability to go without drinking for several days—or longer if juicy plants are available and valvular nostrils lined with hairs for protection against flying sand. Horny pads help to protect the chest, knees, and thigh joints against injury from the hard surfaces on which the camel sleeps.
Strong camels usually carry from 500 to 600 lb (230 to 270 kg) and cover about 30 mi (48 km) a day. Some Bactrian camels can transport 1,000 lb (450 kg). A light, fleet breed of dromedary is used for riding and not for bearing heavy loads. The name dromedary was formerly applied to any swift riding camel.
Geologic findings indicate that the camel originated in North America, that one group migrated to Asia and the other to South America, and that both became extinct in North America probably after the glacial period. Camels are classified in the phylum Chordata , subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Artiodactyla, family Camelidae.
See studies by H. Gauthier-Pilters and A. I. Dagg (1981) and R. Irwin (2010).
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Vertebrate Zoology
Browse By Subject
- Earth and the Environment +-
- History +-
- Literature and the Arts +-
- Medicine +-
- People +-
- Philosophy and Religion +-
- Places +-
- Australia and Oceania
- Britain, Ireland, France, and the Low Countries
- Commonwealth of Independent States and the Baltic Nations
- Germany, Scandinavia, and Central Europe
- Latin America and the Caribbean
- Oceans, Continents, and Polar Regions
- Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, and the Balkans
- United States, Canada, and Greenland
- Plants and Animals +-
- Science and Technology +-
- Social Sciences and the Law +-
- Sports and Everyday Life +-