Do Camels Have Three Eyelids?

Do Camels Have Three Eyelids

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Do camels have three eyelids? I was recently asked this question as I have kept many camels at the farm. It comes as a surprise to many people when they hear camels have three eyelids? Is it true or just a myth?

Belonging to the genus Camelus, camels are often dubbed as the ‘ship of the desert. Camels usually live in the desert habitat and are used for transport across the arid environment.

They are known for enduring the cruelties of the desert. This desert animal can go a longer period of time without food or water.

Camels have a distinctive hump on their backs, in some breeds, the number goes up to two. The dromedary or Arabian camel is the domesticated breed that is kept and raised by humans for multiple purposes. Camels have been known for providing humans with milk, wool, meat, and leather.

People are curious to know about this big animal, that is why it is often asked whether the camels have three eyelids or not. It may seem unusual to have three eyelids when two do the job. So, we have decided to answer this question once and for all as to do camels have three eyelids?

Do Camels have three eyelids?

How many eyelids do camels have? They got three. Being the inhabitants of the harsh desert, these eyelids help a great deal to be protective armour. It would be hard for the camel to go about its business when the sand is blowing, that’s when the three eyelids come to play.

On a windy day or in a sandstorm, when the sand is stirred up, the third eyelid works as a windshield wipers, closing just in time to refrain sand from getting in without restricting vision. The third eyelid is thin enough, so, that camels can see where they are going.

Normally, the eyelash closes and opens up and down but in the case of camels, the third eyelid opens and closes side to side. The bushy eyebrows shield protects the camel’s eyed from the sand, dust, and desert sun. It is not uncommon for animals to have three eyelids and a camel is not the first and only one on the list. 

Many animal have different features that help them survive in their natural habitat, the three eyelids of the camel serves a similar purpose. It is a protective feature to protect their eyes from sand and dust.

What is the third eyelid for?

Multiple sets of eyelids may confuse many people, making them question the third eyelid’s function. Eyelids are a protective shield, they protect the eyes from the dust.

Camels have three eyelids as they are the residents of the deserts, where the weather is cruel most of the time.

According to Research Gate, The third eyelid is a transparent or translucent thin membrane that works as a shield to protect the camel’s eyes from dust and sand while maintaining moisture.

Camel is a working animal, busy transporting and traveling across the desert, it does not rest even when the weather is bad. Because even when the sand is blowing, it got three sets of eyelids to protect, with these protective eyelids, it can see clearly even in a Sandstrom. 

Why do camels have three eyelids?

The third eyelid of the camel is called a nictating membrane, it is a transparent lid that cleans off sand and dust without impeding vision.

It acts like a contact lens which somewhat improves the vision. Had it not been for the third eyelid, it would have been impossible for the camel to travel across the desert on a windy day. The third eyelid or nictating membrane also protects the eyes from injury. 

Nictating membrane is a thin membrane that is created specially that it has a screen that traps the sand and drops it down. Camels are the largest hoofed mammals to have a third, much thinner eyelid. The eyes of the desert darling need protection in the swirling sandstorm. (Source)

Camels have a full Nictating membrane that is drawn across eyes for protection and to moisten them. The term nictating membrane is originated from the Latin word nictare, meaning “to blink”. The third eyelid, haw, or nictating membrane is normally translucent that keeps the sand and debris at bay. 

Not just the camels, the third eyelids function in most animals to protect their eyes from sand, dust, debris, water, and even predator. It moves horizontally and is present in many diving and other animals. 

What is each eyelid used for?

Many ask, wouldn’t two eyelids have been enough? As the two of the eyelids are eyelashes that protect the eyes from the sand.

Then what’s the use of the third eyelid when two eyelids are already doing their job. On a windy day, camels can not just close their eyes and walk in the desert. They need to see where they are going.

If they close the eyelids, camels would not be able to see which will hinder movement. The third eyelid is a thinner membrane that works sideways, allowing them to see even when it is closed. In a sandstorm, camels close off the third eyelid which acts as a screen and does not get the sand in the eyes. It keeps the wind, sand, and dirt away without blinking.

It does not make an appearance regularly, only when it is necessary. It is so thin that it is even harder to see with the human eye. Located at the corner of the eyes, it is drawn across the eye when the weather is hindering vision.

When you think of these large animals and the kind of environment they live in, the third eye makes sense. The third eyelid is not just for decorative purposes as many would like to believe, it serves thanklessly during harsh weather or any dangerous situation.

Read more about Why Do Some Camels Have Two Humps?

Which animals have three eyelids?

It is not just the camels who are gifted with the third eyelid, many other animals boast three eyelids. The third, thin, protective membrane sharpens the vision, cleans off dirt, and gives the ability to see underwater.

Dozens of animals have the third eyelids like dogs, cats, polar bears, seals, aardvarks, kangaroos, beavers, crocodiles, manatees, sea lions, sharks, woodpeckers, and more.


How many eyelashes do camels have?

Camels have three sets of eyelids, two of them are eyelashes while the third one is the nictating membrane which closes off to protect eyes from sand and dirt.

How long are camel’s eyelashes?

There are two sets of eyelashes and they are pretty long to keep the sand at bay. Along with the eyelashes, camels got bushy eyebrows as well for protection.

Where is the camel’s third eyelid?

It is located at the corner of the eye, not usually visible, as it only shows up or makes an appearance when necessary. It moves side to side and is usually transparent, so, it is hard to see.

Can camels see with closed eyes?

Camels can see when the third eyelid is closed. It is thin enough that it does not hinder the vision.

Summing up, it is not unusual for animals to have a third eyelid, it is rather a protective shield or a feature that comes in handy during several situations.

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