Picture of the Day – Camel Teeth

Dromedary Camel (_Camelus dromedarius_) at Roger Williams Park Zoo.

My younger and more naïve self was under the impression that camel mouths housed an irregular mess of pegs and spikes, not unlike a certain national stereotype. Camel dentition is more orderly that what brief glimpses into their mouths suggests but, as usual, they’re still really really weird.

_Camelus_ sp. at Harvard Museum of Natural History.

First off, is it me, or does this dorsal-ish view of a camel skull make it look weirdly Basilosauruslike? This is giving me bad ideas for highly unconventional reconstructions. Anyways, this view demonstrates that spatulate incisors are located only on the mandible and that there are well-developed canines. Pronounced canines are not unique among artiodactyls – note the Greater Mouse Deer to the right – but camels are remarkable for having additional canine-like teeth. Lots of them.

After the true canines in both jaws are caniniform first premolars, and before the canines in the upper jaw only are caniniform incisors (Fowler 2011). As for what these teeth are used for, the true canines are most developed in males and apparently adaptations for intraspecific aggression (Fowler 2011). Camels also bite humans – sometimes fatally – and bite marks on extremities leave a distinct “4 dot sign” (Abu-Zidan et al. 2011), which suggests at least one of the other pairs of caniniform teeth can be used to inflict damage.


Abu-Zidan, F. M. et al. (2011) Camel bite injuries in United Arab Emirates: A 6 year prospective study. Injury http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.injury.2011.10.039

Fowler, M. E. (2011) Medicine and Surgery of Camelids. Wiley-Blackwell

1 thought on “Picture of the Day – Camel Teeth

  1. Wouldn’t a Basilosaurus with a camel head look like a Naden Harbor photo influenced idea of a Cadborosaurus? You don’t want to go there!

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