7 Incredible Facts About Camel Mouth

Camel’s mouth plays a critical role in grabbing, tasting, chewing, manipulating, and swallowing food. It also helps with seducing female camels and demonstrating supremacy over male camels.

Someone described it as a Sarlacc pit from Star Wars. Not a compliment you’d like to receive. 

Here are 7 camel mouth facts to blow your mind.

camel mouth facts

1. Camel’s Lips Help Grab Food 

Camels have long and extremely flexible lips that help them maneuver and grab different items. They allow the camel to grip food without the need to stick out its tongue; this prevents moisture loss and saves water in return.

The upper lip of an adult camel is longer and thicker than the lower one.

It is around 2.5 inches long (6.3 cm) and 0.6 inches thick (1.5 cm), while the lower lip is around 1 inch long (2.7 cm) and 0.3 inches thick (0.8 cm). [1]

The lips are prehensile, have fine hairs, and so flexible that camels can untie knots with them. 

As the camel ages, its lower lip will sag.

Further reading: Fun facts about camel lips

2. There Are 34 Teeth Inside Of A Camel’s Mouth

Just like other mammals, camels are born without teeth and first grow their milk teeth. As they mature, they will replace them with stronger, permanent teeth.

Around the age of 4, permanent teeth will begin to show; by the age of 7, a camel will have a full set of permanent ones. 

The teeth are split into 3 categories:

The teeth are very tough and strong, and allow the camel to crush woody plants for food.

They can be also used to age a camel, and as the animal gets older, they will begin to separate and wear off. [2]

Further reading: 7 camel teeth facts you need to know

3. Long Tongue Helps Camel Eat Food Easier

Camel’s tongue is a very flexible and highly moving muscular organ that helps with prehension, mastication, and deglutination.

Compared to the overall size of the animal, the tongue makes only 0.16% of the camel’s total weight. It weighs around 2 pounds (0.9kg) and is 17 inches long (43cm). 

It is pale-pink and consists of 3 strong muscles (styloglossus, hyoglossus, and genioglossus) that help a camel take food, manipulate it in the mouth, swallow it, and then ruminate. [3]

It also contains a lot of taste buds that allow the animal to taste the food it is eating.

Together with the teeth, the tongue allows the camel to eat tough prickly desert vegetation.

Further reading: All about camel’s tongue 

4. Hardened Mouth Structures Allow The Camel To Eat A Cactus

The tongue and the inside of the camel’s mouth are covered in papillae, tough conic structures made of keratin, that protect the inside of the mouth. 

There are 4 types of papillae on the tongue: circumvallate (help with food tasting), filiform, fungiform, and lenticular. [4]

To be able to eat thorny plants with rough and hard stems, the camel’s mouth has to be very sturdy and rubbery so thorns and branches don’t damage it.

And when a camel decides to grab a cactus, it will first pick it carefully with its flexible lips, and then start biting and nibbling the plant. The papillae found in the mouth, cheeks, and tongue, will manipulate the cactus to flow nicely into the stomach. 

They will orient the six-inch-long cactus needles so that they slide vertically down the throat without hurting the animal.

5. Camel’s Mouth Works Like A Mortar And Pestle 

At the top of the mouth, there is a hard palate the camel grinds the food against – similar to how a mortar and pestle work.

When a camel grabs food, in a rotating fashion, its teeth will grind the food against this hard structure, and then swallow it.

The hard palate is narrow in the front part of the mouth and gets wider as we go towards the back of it. [5]

6. Camels Have Tonsils As We Do

Tonsils are the first line of defense against intruding microorganisms and antigens. Camels have all six types of tonsils. These are the lingual, palatine, velar, tubal, pharyngeal, and paraepiglotic tonsils.

Compared to other animals, camels have well-developed ones, and they are all visible, particularly the palatine ones. [6]

In fact, the palatine tonsil is about 3.1 in (8 cm) in length and 1.2 in (3 cm) in width, and it is located on both sides of the oropharynx wall.

The lingual tonsil is unique, located under the mucosa at the root of the tongue, and similar to the one of a horse.

The velar tonsil (or tonsil of the soft palate) is found near the soft palate diverticulum, close to the place where it joins the hard palate.

Because these structures are developed and well-arranged in camels, tonsils present an efficient immune barrier against inhaled and ingested antigens.

7. Mouth Plays A Big Role In Mating Success

During a rutting season, male camels will start foaming at the mouth and blow up their soft palate diverticulum to attract the females and establish superiority over other males. 

When males are in heat (from November to March), they will exhibit water-wasting behavior in front of females.

They will urinate on their tails and spread that foul liquid all around themselves, they will salivate excessively at their mouths, and blow up a pink sac (dulla) and let it hang on the side of their mouth.

The male that beats other males gets to mate with the females, sometimes with over 70 of them during a breeding season.

Further reading: Weird breeding rituals of camels

TL;DR – Camel Mouth Facts

Camels’ mouths play an important digestive role in camels. Their flexible lips allow them to grab food, the powerful tongue to manipulate food in the mouth, tough teeth grind even the toughest prickly plants against the hard palate, while their tonsils play a protective role against incoming pathogens. The mouth has a role in males seducing female camels during mating season.

This concludes our article on camel mouth facts. We hope you found the article informative and entertaining.


References

[1] Qureshi, Anas Sarwar, et al. “Quantitative Evaluation of Age-Related Anatomical Characteristics of Selected Digestive Organs of Dromedary Camel.” Pakistan Veterinary Journal 40.2 (2020).

[2] Bello, A., et al. “Age estimation of camel in Nigeria using rostral dentition.” (2013)

[3] Allouch, G. M. “Morphological study of the restricted and moving structures of the tongue muscle in dromedary camels (Camelus dromedarius).” International Journal of Veterinary Science 5.3 (2016): 148-152.

[4] Jagapathi Ramayya, P., et al. “Gross anatomy of the tongue of camel.” Indian Veterinary Journal 89.10 (2012): 50.

[5] Alsafy, Mohamed AM, Samir AA El‐gendy, and Mohamed MA Abumandour. “Computed tomography and gross anatomical studies on the head of one‐humped camel (Camelus dromedarius).” The Anatomical Record 297.4 (2014): 630-642.

[6] Achaaban, M. R., et al. “Main anatomical and histological features of the tonsils in the camel (Camelus dromedarius).” Tropical animal health and production 48.8 (2016): 1653-1659.

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