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Why do camels have humps on their backs?

Last Reviewed and Updated on June 12, 2022

Most people think that camels’ humps are used to store water, but that’s not actually true. So if not for water, why do camels have humps on their backs? These animals live in harsh environments, where both food and water are scarce. They have adapted to those environments really well, and their humps are one of the most important adaptations.

Why do camels have humps?

Camels live in harsh environments, where food and water are rarely readily available. This made the camels adapt and develop in a way where they can go without water or food for long periods of time. In fact, they can go without food for many months.

This ability, especially the fact they can go long without water, gave birth to a popular myth that camel humps are filled with water. Humps are actually made of fatty tissue, and not filled with water. The fatty tissue stored in the humps acts as a source of nourishment when food is scarce.

But why have this fatty reserve concentrated in the hump on their backs and not just evenly distributed in the body? We don’t have a definitive answer, some theories say it’s most likely for better temperature regulation.

Why do camel humps deflate or flop over?

You will mostly see a camel with its hump upright and full. But if a camel goes without food for a long time, the fat from the hump will start to metabolize. The longer the camel goes without food, the more deflated the hump will get.

Once the camel has a chance to eat again, the hump will be restored.

If a hungry camel, with a deflated hump, drinks water (and they can drink a lot), the hump will still stay deflated.

Love camels? Read through these fascinating camel facts.

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