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Desaturation of Exhaled Air in Camels

K. Schmidt-Nielsen, R. C. Schroter and A. Shkolnik
Proceedings of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences
Vol. 211, No. 1184 (Mar. 11, 1981), pp. 305-319
Published by: Royal Society
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/35545
Page Count: 15
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Desaturation of Exhaled Air in Camels
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Abstract

We have found that camels can reduce the water loss due to evaporation from the respiratory tract in two ways: (1) by decreasing the temperature of the exhaled air and (2) by removal of water vapour from this air, resulting in the exhalation of air at less than 100% relative humidity (r.h.). Camels were kept under desert conditions and deprived of drinking water. In the daytime the exhaled air was at or near body core temperature, while in the cooler night exhaled air was at or near ambient air temperature. In the daytime the exhaled air was fully saturated, but at night its humidity might fall to approximately 75% r.h. The combination of cooling and desaturation can provide a saving of water of 60% relative to exhalation of saturated air at body temperature. The mechanism responsible for cooling of the exhaled air is a simple heat exchange between the respiratory air and the surfaces of the nasal passageways. On inhalation these surfaces are cooled by the air passing over them, and on exhalation heat from the exhaled air is given off to these cooler surfaces. The mechanism responsible for desaturation of the air appears to depend on the hygroscopic properties of the nasal surfaces when the camel is dehydrated. The surfaces give off water vapour during inhalation and take up water from the respiratory air during exhalation. We have used a simple mechanical model to demonstrate the effectiveness of this mechanism.

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