What Is a Camel’s Hump For?
A camel uses its hump as a portable storehouse of fat from which to draw nourishment when food is scarce. These odd protrusions are mounds of fat — allowing the gangly beast to travel days through the desert without stopping for a bite to eat.
A chemical process enables the camel to convert some of this fat into water, an advantage which enables it to survive for up to 17 days in the desert without drinking.
If a camel uses the fat inside the hump, the hump will become limp and droop down. With proper food and rest the hump will return to normal. The hump is not used for water storage, but camels can go for long periods of time without water. They drink large amounts of water – up to 20 gallons at a time. This water is stored in the animal’s bloodstream.
A camel can carry up to 80 pounds of fat on its back (Baby camels don’t get their humps until they start eating solid food). The Arabian camel or dromedary, found in Arab countries of the Mediterranean, has only one hump. But the Bactrian camel of western Asia has two, giving it greater powers of endurance.
A camel has a special way of running called “pacing”, which looks like a slow run and saves energy. Yet another advantage which enables the camel to survive in regions where food is scarce is its ability to eat twigs and thorny plants which other animals would not touch.
As is the case with all animals, including human beings the greater part of a camel’s body weight consists of water. But, unlike us, this “ship of the desert” can lose up to a quarter of the water through dehydration and live to make another journey.