Arabian or Dromedary Camel (Camelus dromedarius)
Order: Artiodactyla, Family: Camelidae
Ethiopian, Australian: The dromedary camel occupies arid regions of the Middle East through northern India and arid regions in Africa, most notably, the Sahara Desert. The species has also been introduced into dry and arid regions of central Australia.
I. GEOGRAPHIC RANGE
II. PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS
- Ethiopian, Australian: The dromedary camel occupies arid regions of the Middle East through northern India and arid regions in Africa, most notably, the Sahara Desert. The species has also been introduced into dry and arid regions of central Australia.
III. FOOD HABITS
- Mass: 300 to 690 kg.
- The dromedary camel is characterized by a long-curved neck, deep-narrow chest, and a single hump. The hump is composed of fat bound together by fibrous tissue, acting as food storage in times of need. The size of the hump varies with the nutritional status of the camel, becoming smaller to non-existent during times of starvation. The lips of the dromedary camel are thickened to allow consumption of course, thorny plants. Dromedaries are typically caramel brown or sandy brown in color, however, shades can range from almost black to nearly white. Hair length is longer on the throat, shoulder, and hump areas. The feet of dromedaries are pad-shaped and adapted for traveling on sand. They can be easily injured on sharp stones and are unsuitable for slippery or muddy conditions. Male dromedaries, in comparison to females, are about 10% heavier, weighing 400-600 kg, and are about 10 cm taller at shoulder height, measuring 1.8-2.0 m. Additionally, male dromedaries have an inflatable soft palate which is used to attract females. Dromedary camels have a total of 34 teeth, with a dental formula of 1/3; 1/1; 3/2; 3/3.
- The dromedary camel is a herbivore. The camel eats primarily thorny plants, dry grasses and saltbush; however, it will eat most anything that grows in the desert. Dromedaries primarily browse, with shrubs and forbs composing up to 70% of their diet. About 8-12 hours/day is spent grazing with equal amounts spent ruminating. When foraging, camels tend to spread over large areas and select only a few leaves from each plant. This type of feeding behavior reduces the stress on the plant communities and eases competition with other arid region herbivores. Additionally, dromedaries need 6 to 8 times as much salt as other animals for adsorption and storage of water. Consequently, 1/3 of their food intake must be halophytes. Dromedaries browse up to a height of 3.5 m, breaking off branches or stripping off the leaves in one movement. While browsing, they use their lips to grasp the food, then chew each bite 40-50 times. The mouth is kept open while chewing thorny food.
- The dromedary camel has a lifespan of about 40-50 years. Females reach sexual maturity around age 3 and mate around age 4 or 5. Males begin to rut by age 3, but do not reach full sexual maturity until age 6. Typically, males and females are seasonal breeders. Breeding occurs in winter and overlaps with the rainy season; both vary in respect to the camel's geographic range. The onset of the breeding season is believed to be cued by nutritional status of the camel and the daylength. During competition for females, the males threaten each other by making low noises with the fleshy fold of their mouths, stand as tall as possible, and repeat a series of head movements including lowering, lifting, and bending their necks backwards. Upon confrontation, fighting males attempt to bring their opponent to the ground by biting at his legs and taking the opponent's head in between his jaws. Copulation time ranges from 7-35 minutes, averaging 11-15 minutes. The gestation period typically lasts for a period of 15 months, followed by the birth of a single calf. The calf can move freely by the end of the first day. Maternal care generally lasts for 1 to 2 years. Calves typically experience a growth rate of .19-.31 kg/day for the first year.
- With the exception of rutting males, dromedaries show very little aggressive behavior. Confrontations among dromedaries include pushing each other with their whole body or lowered head and neck; snapping at each other without biting; and occasionally vomiting cud when they are hurt or excited. Dromedaries usually form groups of 2-20 individuals. The basic social unit is the family, consisting of one male, and one to several females, subadults, and young. The male within the family unit prevents contact between female camels within the family and stray males by either standing or walking in between them, or by driving the stray males away. The male is the dominant member of the family group and directs the family from the rear while the females take turns leading. Dromedaries tend to travel by walking single file. Dromedary camels find comfort in scratching parts of their body with their front or hind legs, or with their lower incisors. They are also often observed rubbing against trees. Additionally, they seem to like to roll in sand.
VII. ECONOMIC IMPORTANCE FOR HUMANS
- The camels prefer desert conditions characterized by a long dry season and a short rainy season. Introduction of the dromedary into other climates has proven unsuccessful as the camel is sensitive to the cold and humidity.
- Biomes: desert
- The dromedary camel is used as a beast of burden by humans and also provides humans with milk, meat, wool, leather, and fuel from dried manure. Through these services, the dromedary camel has enabled humans to inhabit the seemingly inhabitable desert. Dromedary husbandry is increasing today, and is being recognized as an ecologically-sound method of producing protein rich food in drought-stricken area.
IX. OTHER COMMENTS
- Status: no special status
- Since the dromedary camel is domesticated, the camel has no special status in conservation.
- The dromedary camel has remarkable adaptations for a desert lifestyle. The camel's eyes are protected from blowing sand and dust by a double row of eyelashes. Additionally, on the onset of a sandstorm, the camel has the ability to close its nostrils to prevent sand from entering. Dromedaries are able to conserve water in a variety of ways. Water is conserved by the camel's ability to fluctuate its body temperature throughout the day from 34 degrees Celsius to 41.7 degrees Celsius. The fluctuation in body temperature allows the camel to conserve water by not sweating as the external temperature rises. Groups of camels also avoid the excess heat from the environment by pressing against each other. The dromedary camel can tolerate greater that 30% water loss of its body mass, a condition which is lethal for most other mammals at 15%. Water is expended primarily from interstitial and intracellular bodily fluids. Furthermore, dromedaries can rehydrate quickly, being capable of drinking 100 L of water in just 10 minutes, a feat which would be lethal to any other mammals.
- The dromedary camel is no longer considered a wild animal. The camel is a semi-domesticated animal, freely ranging, but under herdsman control. In fact, dromedaries have been "extinct" from the wild for the past 2000 years. The earliest evidence for dromedary domestication dates back about 4,000 years ago on a small island off the Abu Dhabi coast. Northern Arabian tribes began to use the dromedary as a riding animal around 3,100 years ago. In later years, the camel was bred by the various cultures.