Body Temperature of the Camel and Its Relation to Water Economy

Knut Schmidt-Nielsen, Bodil Schmidt-Nielsen, S. A. Jarnum, T. R. Houpt


The rectal temperature of normal healthy camels at rest may vary from about 34°C to more than 40°C. Diurnal variations in the winter are usually in the order of 2°C. In summer the diurnal variations in the camel deprived of drinking water may exceed 6°C, but in animals with free access to water the variations are similar to those found in the winter. The variations in temperature are of great significance in water conservation in two ways. a) The increase in body temperature means that heat is stored in the body instead of being dissipated by evaporation of water. At night the excess heat can be given off without expenditure of water. b) The high body temperature means that heat gain from the hot environment is reduced because the temperature gradient is reduced. The effect of the increased body temperature on heat gain from the environment has been calculated from data on water expenditure. These calculations show that under the given conditions the variations in body temperature effect a considerable economy of water expenditure. The evaporative heat regulation in the camel seems to rest exclusively on evaporation from the skin surface (sweating), and there is no apparent increase in respiratory rate or panting connected with heat regulation. The evaporation from isolated skin areas increases linearly with increased heat load. The critical temperature at which the increase sets in is around 35°C. The fur of the camel is an efficient barrier against heat gain from the environment. Water expenditure is increased in camels that have been shorn.