Are Camels Warm Or Cold-Blooded? (Endothermic or Ectothermic?)

Like other mammals, camels are warm-blooded. This means that they can maintain a “nearly constant” body temperature, regardless of the temperature of the environment. This is one of their most important adaptations; regulating their body temperature helps them save water and cool off.

In this article, we will explain why camels are warm-blooded, and their body temperature thermoregulation.

are camels warm blooded

Difference Between Warm-Blooded And Cold-Blooded Animals

The major difference between warm and cold-blooded animals is in the way they regulate their body temperature.

Warm-blooded animals, which are mostly birds and mammals (including camels, of course), have to maintain a relatively constant body temperature. For most mammals, the average temperature goes between 97 °F and 103 °F (36-39.5 °C), for birds around 105 °F (40.5 °C), while for humans around 98.6 °F (37 °C).

Cold-blooded animals get their heat from the outside environment and do not have a constant body temperature. Their body temperature fluctuates depending on the external temperature; if the outside temperature is 40 °F (4 °C), they will drop their body temperature to 40 °F. If it rises to 90 °F (32 °C), their body temperature will go up to 90 °F.

Large animals like camels are warm-blooded animals because of their body size.

The bigger the size, the more time it takes for the body to get warm from the outside environment. If camels were cold-blooded, this would be extremely inefficient but also dangerous to their survival. Therefore, most large mammals have warm blood.

It is important to note that the classification of camels (and other organisms) as warm-blooded or cold-blooded should be taken informally, as it is not scientifically correct. 

Generally, warm-blooded animals can be split into two separate categories of thermoregulation (the ability to keep body temperature within certain borders, regardless of outside temperature):

  • Endotherms – they create most of their heat via metabolic processes
  • Ectotherms – use the environment as a source of energy to maintain body temperature

Some mention tachymetabolism, but we will focus on the first two categories when discussing camels.

Also, animals can be grouped as Homeotherms, Poikilotherms, and Heterothermic organisms, based on how much their body temperature changes throughout the day. 

Homeotherms maintain their body temperature within a narrow range (birds and mammals), while poikilotherms can tolerate a wide variation in internal body temperature (fish, amphibians, and reptiles). Heterothermic animals have different temperatures in different parts of the body (e.g. highest temperature at the core but much lower in the extremities). 

When the outside temperature becomes extremely low, some heterothermic animals will go into a state of reduced metabolic rate and hypothermia, similar to hibernation, called torpor.

Further reading: Do camels get into torpor?

Are Camels Ectothermic Or Endothermic Species?

A fully hydrated camel is an endotherm and homeotherm animal with a relatively constant body temperature with small daily fluctuations not exceeding 35.6 °F (2 °C). Camel’s body temperature ranges between 96.8 °F and 102 °F (36-39 °C).

When a camel is dehydrated, it switches from an endotherm to a heterotherm. In such cases, its body temperature can fluctuate by 43 °F (6.2 °C), and go from 93 °F to 105 °F (3440.7 °C).

When the outside temperature goes below 50 °F (10 °C), a camel will increase its metabolic rate (the number of calories required to keep the body functioning and maintaining homeostasis), produce heat, and increase its body temperature to prevent hypothermia. [1]

When the outside temperature reaches 104 °F (40 °C), the camel will cool itself down by losing heat through sweating, try to keep the body temperature constant and prevent hyperthermia.

The camel will thermoregulate its body temperature throughout the day to conserve water and cool down. [2

And under extreme heat or prolonged water deprivation, a camel will switch its thermoregulation status from endothermic homeothermy to heterothermic.

This process is known as adaptive heterothermia.

The dromedary camel will use adaptive heterothermia only when there is no water available for an extended period. In such a situation, the camel’s body functions as in ectotherm poikilotherm (similar to reptiles and amphibians): its body temperature will increase to follow the outside one and the animal will avoid sweating to save water.

This mechanism will only stop at a certain threshold: when a camel’s body temperature reaches a life-threatening level around 105°F (40.7°C), it will abandon saving water in favor of immediate survival. At that temperature, a camel will start to sweat to remove excess heat from the body.

Scientists noticed that throughout the day, a camel will cycle its thermoregulatory state by switching between poikilothermy and homeothermy.

At night and early morning, the camel’s body temperature will passively follow the outside temperature: the camel behaves as an ectotherm poikilotherm.

In the morning, as the outside temperature increases, the camel will maintain a fairly constant body temperature: the camel becomes an endotherm homeotherm.

In the afternoon, when the outside temperature becomes extreme, the camel will increase its body temperature and start sweating: the camel behaves once again as an ectotherm poikilotherm.

In the evening and early hours of the night, the camel stores the daily heat and maintains a constantly high body temperature: the camel returns to a homeothermy state.

Scientists have not observed such a switch between endothermic homeothermic and ectothermic poikilothermic states in any other adaptive thermoregulation process. 

TL;DR – Are Camels Warm Or Cold-Blooded?

Similar to other mammals, camels are warm-blooded animals. When hydrated, they are an endotherm and homeotherm animal; when dehydrated, they become a heterotherm. Camels will cycle between these thermoregulatory states to cool down and conserve water.

If a camel gets too dehydrated, it might even die.

We have an article on how camels conserve water. You can read it HERE.

This concludes our article examining the question “are camels warm-blooded or cold-blooded”, but also if camels are Endotherms or Ectotherms.


References:

[1] Tibary, Ahmed, and Khalid El Allali. “Dromedary camel: A model of heat resistant livestock animal.” Theriogenology 154 (2020): 203-211.

[2] Bornstein, S. “The ship of the desert. The dromedary camel (Camelus dromedarius), a domesticated animal species well adapted to extreme conditions of aridness and heat.” Rangifer (1990): 231-236.

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