A camel, or Camelus in Latin, is a species that has adapted to some of the most grueling conditions on the planet.
Lack of food and water are just a few things that pushed this mammal to develop unique anatomical characteristics throughout its evolutionary history.
We have previously covered one part of the camel respiratory system, their big nostrils.
So in this article, we will be explaining what is the function of another camel breathing organ that helps them respire, lungs.
Do Camels Have Lungs?
Camels do have lungs that allow them to breathe. Their lungs are their main breathing organ and consist of 2 parts, the left and the right lung.
Now let’s get a bit more medical:
The entire lower respiratory tract of a camel consists of:
- the larynx
- the tracheobronchial system
- the right lung
- the left lung
A 2019 study on lungs in Bactrian camels described that their lungs have several regions: the left and right cranial lobe, left and right caudal lobe, accessory lobe, and the bronchial tree containing the tracheobronchial branch.
The cranial lobe in camels is narrow, while the caudal lobe is almost 4 times larger than the cranial one. The accessory lobe was smaller than the caudal one.
The bronchial tree consisted of dorsal, ventral, medial, and lateral bronchiole systems.
When there is no water available, the lower lung lobe is responsible for maintaining a low breathing frequency.
And according to a study on desaturation on exhaled air in camels, when a camel is well-hydrated, it will breathe around 9,10 times per minute. When a camel has been exposed to prolonged dehydration, 2 weeks or more, its breathing frequency will drop to 4.3 breaths per minute.
How Big Are Camel’s Lungs?
That same study from 2019 we mentioned before measured the weight of the camel’s lungs.
Bactrian camel’s lungs were around 10 pounds (4.5kg), had a dark-red color, and similar-sized left and right lungs.
Another study from 2016 investigating the lower respiratory tract of one-humped camel (Camelus Dromedarius) fetuses found that 4 months old camel fetuses have both lungs weighing around 0.13 pounds (60g) in total. 9 months old fetuses had lungs weighing 0.24 pounds (110g), while the 13-month-old ones were 0.60 pounds (270g).
How Do Camels Breathe?
Here’s the simplified respiration process of a camel:
A camel inhales the outside air, the air passes through its nostrils and the nasal passages, then through the trachea into the bronchi, and ultimately gets into the lungs.
The air in the bronchi passes through small passageways until it gets into tiny air sacs called alveoli. The alveoli are the place where that air that camel previously breathed in gets into the blood. That process is called oxygen diffusion.
The opposite form of diffusion happens with carbon dioxide. Blood containing carbon dioxide travels back to the lungs and is moved from the blood to the alveoli, finally getting out of the body through exhalation.
A group of scientists from the Department of Zoology at Duke University in the USA tried to explain how camels conserve water in their respiration process.
They found that camels do it in 2 ways:
- First, by decreasing the temperature of the exhaled air
- Second, by removing water vapor from that exhaled air
When a camel is properly hydrated, during the day, it will exhale the air of a similar temperature to its own body temperature.
During the night, however, when the outside temperature is lower than the camel’s body temperature, the animal will exhale air that is significantly colder than its own body temperature.
The camel inhales the cold night air, that air passes through nasal passages that have a higher temperature than the air. The passages get cooled down by the air, the air gets hot from the passages, ultimately getting into the lungs.
When a camel is exhaling, the hot air from the lungs passes over those cooled surfaces and gives up heat which results in water condensation.
The scientists also discovered that during the daytime, the exhaled air was at 100% relative humidity, but during the night, when that water-saving process happens, the air was around 75% relative humidity.
Relative humidity is the amount of moisture present in a given volume of air at a given temperature.
A respiration process like this allows the camel to save up to 60% of water.
Now onto the “smellier” part of the article.
What Does Camel Breath Smell Like?
So in order to digest food, camels, like most ruminants, chew and swallow their food, and then move it into their stomach. After that, they regurgitate the food back to their mouth and chew it even more.
If you ever went close to any ruminant’s mouth, you’d know how bad their breath smells like.
And according to Carol Bibler, who owns a Bactrian camel, camel breath smells really bad, much worse than of a goat or a cow, probably because of the camel’s much bigger size.
We have a full article on why camels smell so bad. Make sure to check it out.
Camels breathe through their lungs. Their lungs consist of several parts, namely the left and right lung.
The lungs of an adult camel weigh around 10 pounds, and the entire camel respiratory system allows better water saving when there is no water available.
When it comes to camel breath, however, we’d advise you to skip smelling it, because you definitely won’t like the smell.