Monday, December 17, 2007

Animal of the Week -- December 17/24, 2007

You know, sometimes, when the pressure is on, I get performance anxiety and and I just can't deliver? And I am also sorry that I missed Animal of the Week last week.

I've done—in the sense of having covered them in Animal of the Week—turkeys, donkeys, and, of course, in last year's special, 364 animals (, so what is there left for me to do at this time of year? What festive animals are left—the chuckwallah, the mangabey, the roadrunner? Well no, this week I bring you, dear reader, a gift of the animals that bore the Magi with their presents into The Gospel of Matthew, Camelus dromedarius (dromedary, one humped camel)

If you were a wise man from the east looking for a fictional king of kings in the middle east 2007 years ago, guided by naught but a star, you could do much worse than take a dromedary as your steed. Able to travel huge distances in arid deserts, losing 30% of their body water, while carrying a huge load of gold, frankinsense, and myrrh, one-humped camels were the ultimate in desert transport; due to the lack of water, ships are pretty useless.

With their double row of eyelashes, ability to drink 100 L of water in 10 minutes, and a hump containing 35 kg of fat meaning they can go two weeks without food, dromedaries are supremely well adapted to the desert. The camel hoof is less well adapted to the desert as it doesn't half itch when the sand gets in. But dromedaries are pretty much the best animal to have in the desert and so rapidly did the craze for camels as desert transport catch on, that soon after the first bright spark had the idea to domesticate them, all the dromedaries were snapped up, and there is now not a single wild one left across their original range in West Asia and the Arabian Penninsular. There are, however, half a million feral camels in the Australian outback. Having lost their crown as Australia's best adapted desert mammal, the red kangaroos haven't half got the hump. Australia's honey-pot ants, in which a certain caste has grossly distended abdomens filled with a honey like sugar, are thought to feel totally unthreatened by the camels' presence in their status as Australia's foremost dessert animal.

Ho ho ho.

You've seen this before I am sure, but here's a song about the dromedaries' South American cousins, llamas

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