Camels eat cactus by rotating the cactus inside its mouth so that it doesn’t poke the camel’s inner parts of the mouth. The camel also has papillae inside its mouth that push the needles of the cactus vertically down its throat.
Camels have a special mouth structure that allows them to eat cacti and other herbs that might be too tough for other animals to eat. Inside their mouths, they have special papillae. These are structures located on the edges of the camel’s mouth. They’re designed to push the needles of the cactus vertically.
How Do Camels Eat Cactus?
Camels have two special mechanisms that allow them to eat cacti:
- As already mentioned, they have papillae. These are tough shells inside their mouths that are meant to push the needles vertically down their throat as well as make sure that the needles don’t get stuck inside their mouth.
- Additionally, camels also use a rotating chew to process the cactus. This type of chew will distribute the needles of the cactus to the edges next to the papillae, which will soften the blows created by needles and make the cactus easier to eat.
You might think that a cactus would be too hard for camels or other animals to eat and process, but that’s not true. Some animals, especially desert animals, have special adaptations that allow them to eat cacti and other similar plants. With these adaptations, they can eat cacti with even the sharpest needles.
The papillae inside the mouth of a camel act as a strengthening part of their mouths. These papillae are meant to keep their mouths protected from various tougher foods such as cacti, for instance. The papillae are made of keratin, which is a tough material that will keep the mouths protected.
Keratin is the same ingredient that you’ll find in your nails, so you can imagine how tough the papillae of a camel are. Thanks to the keratin, which is a rough ingredient, the edges and the other vulnerable parts of a camel’s mouth don’t get hurt while eating a cactus, which allows the camel to stay safe.
Related Article: 10 Camel Adaptations
Why Do Camels Eat Cactus?
Because camels live in rough habitats with not a lot of food around, they have to make do with anything they can find around them. This means that they’ll need to eat foods such as cacti to survive.
Luckily, for camels, this is not that hard. They’re very happy to eat cacti. Their primary foods are grains, grasses, wheat, and oats. However, these foods are not always readily available to them, especailly in the desert where they live. This means that they’ll need to adapt their diet and eat a variety of different foods.
Camels, as already mentioned, have papillae that enable them to eat rough foods such as cacti. This gives them a slight advantage over other animals that might not be interested in such foods at all – however, many desert animals also have the same adaptations as camels, which enable them to eat cacti.
In addition to that, camels are also ruminants. Their ruminant lifestyle allows them to eat foods, store them inside their stomachs, and regurgitate the foods back to their mouths again when they need it. This gives them a steady supply of food that is readily available to them when they need it.
Thanks to all these adaptations, camels can survive the harsh nature of the desert. Like other animals that live there, they have numerous bodily and behavioral adaptations, which gives them a chance of survival in an environment where there’s not a lot of food and of course, water.
Can Camels Get Hurt Eating a Cactus?
Yes, camels might get hurt eating a cactus. They might also feel some pain when eating a cactus, but this isn’t so common. As already mentioned, they have various adaptations that enable them to eat cactus with ease.
While a camel will get hurt while eating a cactus, sometimes, it’s their only choice to survive. Luckily for them, they have papillae, which will protect their mouths while eating a cactus. However, they might still feel the pain inside their mouths as they are eating the cactus, although it will not be very intense.
Compared to some other animals, camels have high barriers when it comes to pain. They can withstand incredibly high temperatures, eat foods that no other animals can eat, and last a relatively long time without water. All of these adaptations are crucial for them as they need to survive in the desert.
Generally speaking, camels won’t get hurt while eating cactuses. The rough papillae in their mouths will protect them as they eat it. In addition, the cactus will already be chewed enough once it enters the throat and the stomach of the camel, so the cactus won’t do much (or any) damage to its internal organs.
Surprisingly, a cactus has plenty of quality nutrients such as vitamin C, E, A, iron, and others. All of these are enough of a reason for camels to bear the pain when eating a cactus and consume it even though they might be feeling some unpleasant sensations while eating the cactus.
Do Other Desert Animals Eat Cacti?
There are many different animals in the desert that enjoy eating a cactus, such as packrats, jackrabbits, javelinas, ground squirrels, prairie dogs, Gila woodpeckers, and others.
Many of these animals have the necessary adaptations to eat a cactus. It’s crucial for these animals to have these adaptations because they often need to have them not to get hurt while eating this plant. Some animals might have special chewing techniques, while others will have adaptations such as papillae in a camel.
Camels eat a cactus with ease thanks to the papillae inside their mouths, and their special chewing technique.