You are probably familiar with some of the camel’s special adaptations to live in an environment as harsh and unforgiving as the Sahara Desert, the Gobi Desert, the steppes of Mongolia, or even the Australian Outback. What about their eyes? How many eyelids does a camel have?
All camels have 3 eyelids. Their 3rd eyelid is called a nictitating membrane. This transparent barrier protects its eye from dust and sand. And it can also act like a contact lens, improving their vision. Many animals have three eyelids, including horses, cats and dogs, sharks, and many birds.
Here’s more about the camel’s unique eyes and eyelids.
How Many Eyelids Do Camels Have?
All camels (Bactrian and Arabian) have three eyelids. We tend to think that most other mammals also have two eyelids since we do, but that just isn’t the case.
Camels Two Horizontal Eyelids
Camels have two eyelids (in the same configuration as humans, opening horizontally) with long eyelashes.
Camels’ eyelids have these long, full eyelashes to keep dust and sand out of their eyes, which is helpful in the desert.
Camel’s Vertical Third Eyelid
They also have a third eyelid that tracks vertically across their eye behind the other two eyelids.
Their third eyelid is called a nictitating membrane.
Camels need this third eyelid to keep their eyes clean and free of debris, as an added protective measure to the first two eyelids.
Camels can also keep this special third eyelid closed while they open their outer eyelids.
Why Do Camels Have Three Eyelids?
This ability is especially helpful when dust storms blow through their habitat; these third clear eyelids then act as sand goggles so that no debris can hurt or damage their eyes.
Once the danger is over, camels can retract their third eyelid and use it as needed as a sand-wiper.
About Third Eyelids
Third eyelids which track across the eye (rather than up and down) are called nictitating membranes and are common in most vertebrates. Sometimes a third eyelid is called a haw.
Humans, primates, and some birds and reptiles don’t have 3 eyelids. Haws are actually more common in the animals kingdom than just two eyelids.
You might also enjoy: 14 Largest Deserts in the World
What Other Animals Have Third Eyelids?
It may also surprise you that within the mammal, bird, and reptile worlds, having two eyelids is actually more uncommon. Conversely, fish and snakes do not have eyelids—they have membranes.
Polar bears and seals are semi-aquatic animals, so these third eyelids are transparent. They act as underwater goggles so that these predators can find prey and be on the lookout for potential attackers, all while protecting the actual surface of their eyes.
Hippos and horses also have these handy built-in goggles. Here’s more about that.
Our Pets 3rd Eyelids
Cats and dogs also have third eyelids, but unlike those we’ve already mentioned, these are not transparent. You may have seen a part of this third eyelid when your pet is in deep relaxation, lying on their backs in full relaxation mode.
Sometimes their eyes aren’t all the way shut, and you might wonder, what is that thing in their eye? It’s the third eyelid under their primary ones, and this helps to keep their eyes moist.
Moist eyes are essential to an animal’s survival. Their vision helps cats and dogs find prey and watch out for predators.
A Few Camel Facts
Camels have many unique features, in addition to their third eyelid.
- They also have large, spade-like feet that allow them to walk across the sand without sinking into it.
- Their thick fur acts as a temperature regulator to keep them cool in hot weather and warm when it’s cold.
- They also store energy in the form of fat in their humps so they can fast for long periods without growing weary.
- Camels can drink up to 20 gallons (almost 78 liters) of water in one go.
Related: Do Octopuses Have Bones?
So, yeah, camels have 3 eyelids. But they are not the only ones. In the animal kingdom, many animals and thousands of species share this trait, even your loyal companion.
Have you seen the third eyelid of a camel’s eye?
- About the Author
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Hi, I’m Dena Haines. And I’m co-founder of Storyteller Travel. I love to cover food, animals, and destinations around the world.
I also blog about photography at Storyteller Tech.