TIL: Camels can eat long-needled cactus

Do not mess with a Dromedary camel. Their mouths are adapted to eat whole pieces of prickly pear cactus, six-inch long needles and all. Watch this video by Camels and Friends if you don't believe me.

A zoologist on reddit chimed in on how this is possible:

Camel mouths are full of cone-shaped papillae that look like this. These protrusions are partly keratinised - keratin being the hard stuff your nails are made out of - which makes them tough n' semi-rigid, feeling a bit like the middle of tupperware lids when you squish 'em. The plastic-ey cones not only help protect the mouth from internal damage - scratches, abrasions etc. - when they feed on thorns and other nasties, but they also manipulate the food to go down in one direction.

Worth mentioning that modern camels wouldn't be eating cactus like this in the wild either; instead it'd be scrubby, thorny acacia bushes and the like. They also likely do feel some pain and discomfort eating this stuff, as much of their mouths - particularly their lips - are very sensitive, despite the papillae. Being metal as fuck though, camels just get on with it. They have an oddly voracious appetite for prickly pear and similar cacti native to North America, so clearly there's something about those plants that camels love, despite the irritating prickles. Makes them sort of sadomasochistic diners, really.

Anywho, the same sorts of papillae structures have independently evolved multiple times across the animal kingdom; notably inside the mouths and throats of leatherback turtles.

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Camel bites news reporter's hair

Suddenly camel

After I saw this gif of a camel biting a news reporter's head, I took a look at other camel videos. A lot of videos on YouTube are about biting camels. Example:

Many videos are even worse.

This camel, which is treated with love, has no desire to bite its human friend:

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WHO asks people to stop drinking camel urine until MERS is contained

Responding to a deadly outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in South Korea, the World Health Organization (WHO) is asking people to resist the temptation to drink camel urine. The beverage could be playing a roll in spreading the infection, which has killed 6 people and sickened 87 others.

[I]n parts of the Middle East, drinking camel urine is not as uncommon as one might think. In parts of the Arabian Peninsula, the liquid is consumed for its allegedly palliative properties. The Prophet Mohammed is said to have informed his followers to drink camel urine to cure them of disease.

In 2013, an intrepid reporter for Vice sampled the substance while in Yemen. “The taste of warm piss is, as you would expect, disgusting,” he wrote. “But when it’s mixed with camel milk, as it traditionally is, it’s even worse.

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Mali to replace French president's eaten camel

"Francois Hollande had left the creature with a family in Timbuktu for safekeeping, after it was presented to him by local residents in February. But it was promptly slaughtered and used in a tagine." Read the rest