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LEXICON

 

 

Arabian Camel

One of the only two remaining species within the genus Camelus still existing today, the other one being the Bactrian Camel. Four more species in this genus are today extinct. Though mostly found in North Africa and the Middle East, the Arabian Camel also occurs in India, whilst the Bactrian Camel is native to the steppes of central Asia and is commonly found in remote regions, such as China's Gobi Desert. The Arabian Camel, which is also commonly called Dromedary, is known by the scientific name Camelus dromedarius and is with an estimated 13 million of them the largest member of the camel family. It probably originates from the Arabian Peninsula, but its domesticated form is found from North Africa through to South Asia, with an introduced feral population in Australia. In contrast to the Bactrian Camel, which has two humps on its back, the Dromedary has only one. These humps are in fact large fat reserves. Camels can drink up to 60-100 liters of water in just 10 minutes, which -contrary to popular belief- they do not store in their humps, but in their stomachs, from where they release it only slowly into the blood flow, preventing any damage that would occur with other mammals if they would drink such large quantities in such a short time. Unlike most other mammals, which mostly have thick and rounded blood platelets, those of camels are rather flat and oval-shaped, which makes them circulate much faster through the bloodstream, a feature which is said to help prevent dehydration. Consequently, camels can lose up to 30% of their body fluid before experiencing adverse consequences, whereas people and most other mammals can lose only about 10% of their body fluid, after which nausea will set in and even blindness or death may occur. In addition, the camel is uniquely equipped with special adaptations, that allow it to go for days without drinking, i.e. its nose humidifies dry air as it breaths in, then de-humidifies it on the way out, thus conserving precious water, and its body temperature can rise by 6 degrees Celsius before it even begins to sweat. It also has thick fur, that reflects the sunlight during by day, allowing it to endure the searing heat of the desert (fig.), whilst it keeps it warm at night, when temperatures can be freezing cold. Both camel species have long been used as domesticated draft (fig.) and working animals (fig.), and were an indispensible means of transportation (fig.) in the cross-country trade per caravan over inhospitable terrain, such as certain parts of the ancient Silk Road. Due to its intrinsic role in the history of India, the Arabian Camel is often found depicted in Indian art and iconography (fig.).