Do Camels Hibernate? (Torpor And Aestivation Included!)

Hibernation is a state of deep sleep that an animal enters to conserve energy and survive when food is scarce. Although hibernation would come in handy for camels during the winter months, camels do not hibernate. 

During hibernation, the animal’s body temperature, heart rate, and breathing rate all drop to extremely low levels for it to conserve energy. 

Before getting into hibernation mode, an animal would store huge amounts of fat (just like a camel does in its hump) to use it as an energy reserve during that sleep. 

And contrary to what people think, camels do not live only in hot desert areas, but in places where temperatures can go down to -40 ° F (-40 °C), and even lower.

So, it would have been a great idea for a camel to get into hibernation to survive those extreme weathers. But yet they do not do so.

Let’s look into the advantages and disadvantages of such a decision.

do camels hibernate

Advantages And Disadvantages Of Camels Hibernating

If a camel were to hibernate, a huge advantage to that would be that it could more easily survive cold, dark winters without having to look for food, migrate to somewhere warmer, or face the extreme colds on the outside.

A big disadvantage to camel hibernation would be weaker immunity and higher risk of infections and parasites during and shortly after sleep, and increased risk of predation. It can take up to several hours for an animal to get out of hibernation, which makes it more vulnerable to attacks. 

Luckily for camels, they developed all the right features so they do not need to sleep in the winter. 

Why Camels Don’t Need To Hibernate

A camel’s thick fur, fat-filled hump, high tolerance to lack of food and water, extreme weight loss, and unique digestive system allow it to skip hibernation and be active during the winter months.

During winter, camels will grow long and thick fur to protect them from the freezing colds, and when the spring comes they will shed it.

The difference between their fur thickness can be pretty big.

camel fur in winter and in summer
Camel fur in winter vs camel fur in the summer

They can go up to 15 days without water, and thanks to its hump, for several months without food.

Perfect for surviving a few brisk winter months

A typical hibernating mammal can lose about 40% of its body weight in the process, and a camel can tolerate about the same percentage, just without the need to fall into a deep sleep.

Camels are not picky creatures when it comes to food. A study done in Australia concluded that a camel will eat 82% of plants that are available in an area, some that other animals would not even think of eating.

Camel’s stomach consists of 3 chambers that are specialized in extracting the most possible amounts of vitamins and minerals from the least nutritious plants, and their small furry ears allow better heat retention.

All of this makes it easier for camels to survive winter without the need to find shelter and hibernate. 

Do Camels Go Into Torpor?

Torpor is a state of sleep where animals lower body temperature, breathing rate, heart rate, and metabolic rate to survive winter months. Compared to hibernation, torpor is an involuntary state that an animal enters into, and lasts a lot shorter. Camels do not get into any type of torpor or hibernation.

Animals that go into torpor are some species of birds (like hummingbirds), raccoons, skunks, some mice, and bats.

Do Camels Aestivate?

Aestivation or estivation is a state of sleep similar to hibernation that takes place during the hot and dry summer months. Estivation is characterized by a period of inactivity and a lowered metabolic rate. And camels do not estivate. 

Animals that go into estivation are mollusks, crabs, crocodiles, some salamanders, mosquitoes, desert tortoises, the dwarf lemur, and some hedgehogs, but not camels.

Final Thoughts

This concludes the article on camel hibernation. 

Camels are creatures that are active during cold winter months and do not need to enter dormant states like hibernation, torpor, or estivation. Their thick fur, big hump, and tolerance to food and water scarcity allow them to be awake during that cold period.

Bactrian camels are known to be able to survive extreme colds of the Asian steppes and temperatures going under 40° without going into hibernation.

You would see them have thick fur during winter months, which they shed then the spring comes. 

Dromedary camels in the hot deserts do not get into estivation sleep during hot summer months and stay awake during the day. 

Their excellent body adaptations allowed these diurnal animals to skip hibernation sleep and thrive where other animals couldn’t.

Another camelid and member of the Camelidae family, llama, sleeps a lot longer than camels during the day. Read more about it here.

We hope you found it informative and useful and that we managed to fully answer the question: do camels hibernate.

Sources:

No, Really, You’re Not Hibernating

The costs and benefits of hibernation

The Difference Between Hibernation and Torpor

Hibernation patterns in mammals: a role for bacterial growth?

Brief report Tits (Parus major and Parus caeruleus) preying upon hibernating bats

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