Why Do Camels Have Humps?
Camels live in the desert, and they sometimes have to go a long time without any food. That is when their humps become useful. The camel’s hump is really a large hump of fat. When the camel is traveling across the desert and food is hard to find, the fat in the hump provides energy for the animal.
When the camel has not eaten for a few days, its hump shrinks as the fat is used up. After the camel has had a few days’ rest and some food, its hump becomes plump and firm again. The hump is not a storage place for water, as some people believe.
Camels hump stores up to 80 pounds (36 kilograms) of fat, which can break down into water and energy when sustenance is not available. These humps give camels their legendary ability to travel up to 100 desert miles (161 kilometers) without water.
Camels rarely sweat, even in desert temperatures that reach 120°F (49°C), so when they do take in fluids they can conserve them for long periods of time. In winter, even desert plants may hold enough moisture to allow a camel to live without water for several weeks.
When camels do refill, however, they soak up water like a sponge. A very thirsty animal can drink 30 gallons (135 liters) of water in only 13 minutes.