Camels outsmart other herbivores: why they store fat

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Curious Fact: Camels store fat in their humps as a strategy to survive in areas with limited water and food sources. This type of behavior is known as “booming,” where camels can hold up to 40% of their body weight in fat reserves. The energy stored in the hump can be converted into other energy-storing molecules such as glycogen or stored as lipids, which can be broken down later during fasting or when there is a surplus of water.
Despite their name, camels actually have a thick layer of fat under the skin around their humps, which can provide up to 30% of their daily caloric needs. This fat is made up primarily of storage lipids called triglycerides, which are composed of three fatty acids bonded to glycerol. Interestingly, camels often use a special type of triglyceride known as diglyceride, which contains two fatty acids instead of one.
Why do camels store fat? In dry environments where water is scarce, camels need a way to store energy for extended periods without depleting their body’s resources. Fat provides a valuable and accessible source of nutrients that can be quickly converted into energy when needed. Additionally, the storage of fat in the humps allows for space for additional air pockets to be created, further increasing the amount of energy that can be stored in the body without taking up too much space.
The humped appearance of camels also serves other functions beyond storing fat reserves. The hump on the dromedary camel is particularly prominent and serves as a vital thermoregulatory control mechanism, allowing it to regulate its body temperature. During periods of extreme heat or cold, the hump will release heat into the surrounding air and cool down these areas, helping to protect the rest of the body from overheating.
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