Monday 22 January 2018

Research reveals how the camel really got its hump

Nick Collins London

RUDYARD Kipling imagined in his 'Just So Stories' that the camel got its hump as a punishment for idleness. And, as it turns out, the real reason is almost as unlikely.

Rather than being a natural device for storing water in the desert as many believe, the hump was originally developed to store fat in polar conditions, according to scientists.

Researchers from Canada have made the claim after unearthing the fossil of a giant ancestor of the modern-day beast, which they believe roamed the Arctic Circle millions of years ago. Thirty fossilised pieces of a lower leg bone belonging to a camel which lived 3.5 million years ago were found by researchers on Ellesmere Island, in the north of Canada.

The giant mammals would have measured up to 11ft in height and had one hump in which they stored fat to help them survive in the winter, at a time when the region was less cold than today and covered with forest.

It has been known for many years that camels' humps are reservoirs of fatty tissue, as opposed to stores of water as was once commonly believed.

This allows them to thrive in hot climates because storing fat on their back minimises the insulating effect it would have if distributed over the rest of their bodies.

Dr Natalia Rybczynski of the Canadian Museum of Nature said: "Perhaps some specialisations seen in modern camels, such as their wide flat feet, large eyes and humps for fat may be adaptations derived from living in a polar environment."

Camels were already known to descend from giant forerunners in North America, but the discovery provides the first evidence that they lived at such extreme latitudes. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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