Lama glamallama

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Geographic Range

Llamas have a native range all along the Andes mountains, but are not found in the wild. Lama glama can be found commercially throughout North America, Europe and Australia. An indispensable pack animal, herds of L. glama are maintained extensively by the native human populations in Argentina, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia and Peru. ("Llama", 2004; Microsoft Encarta, 2004a)

Habitat

The Andean highlands, especially the Altiplano of southeast Peru and western Bolivia, is the natural habitat of L. glama. These plateaus are covered with low growth, including various shrubs stunted trees and grasses. In the Altiplano region, the northern reaches are reasonably temperate and mountainous, whereas the south is drier, desert-like and inhospitable. Llamas are known to inhabit elevations no greater than 4,000 meters above sea level. ("Llama", 2004; Microsoft Encarta, 2004b; Microsoft Encarta, 2004a)

  • Range elevation
    2300 to 4000 m
    7545.93 to 13123.36 ft
  • Average elevation
    3000 m
    9842.52 ft

Physical Description

Llamas, like other camelids have long necks, limbs, rounded muzzles, protruding lower incisors, and a cleft upper lip. South American camelids, including llamas, alpacas, and guanacos do not have humps as do Old World camelids. Llamas are the largest member of this group. They have long shaggy pelage which varies greatly in color. A common coat pattern is reddish brown fur with mottled patches of white or yellow. ("Llama", 2004; Dias de Avila Pires, 2004; Parera, 2002; T., 2002; Vaughan, et al., 2000)

Llamas are fairly large mammals standing about 1.21 m at the shoulder and about 1.2 m in length from head to tail. Adult L. glama can weigh from 130 to 155 kg. Unlike some other Artiodactyla, L. glama has a two toed foot with a thick leathery pad on each foot’s sole. ("Llama", 2004; Dias de Avila Pires, 2004; T., 2002; Vaughan, et al., 2000)

Llamas have an unusually high content of hemoglobin in their bloodstream and oval shaped red blood corpuscles, both of which are adaptaions for surviving in an oxygen-poor, high altitude environment. Like other members of the Camelidae, L. glama has distinctive teeth. Adult llamas retain only one upper incisor, and the lower incisors clip vegetation against hardened gums. Other distinctive features about this species include the reduction of the premolars to 2/1 and a considerable diastema between the incisors and premolars. ("Llama", 2004; Dias de Avila Pires, 2004; T., 2002; Vaughan, et al., 2000)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • sexes alike
  • Range mass
    130 to 155 kg
    286.34 to 341.41 lb
  • Average mass
    140 kg
    308.37 lb
  • Range length
    .92 to 1.6 m
    3.02 to 5.25 ft
  • Average length
    1.2 m
    3.94 ft
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    148.94 W
    AnAge

Reproduction

Llamas are polygynous. Male llamas gather a harem of about 6 females into a designated territorial region and then aggressively drive away all other male llamas of breeding age who come into the area. This behavior is similar to that of Lama guanicoe: young males that are driven out of the breeding harem may congregate in herds until they are old enough to breed, at which time they will seek out existing harems to take over. Older and displaced males will live on their own. (Honolulu Zoo, 2004; Ingram and Krowka, 1999; Sorin, 2002)

Llamas are able to interbreed with other members of the genus Lama to produce fertile offspring. Although L. glama does not have an estrus cycle, this species tends to mate in late summer and early fall. After mating, female llamas undergo induced ovulation where the ovum is released about 24 to 36 hours after copulation. Gestation takes about 360 days, and the female llama gives birth to one cria (infant llama) almost every year. Crias are able to run about an hour after being born. Newborn llamas weigh about 10 kg and crias are nursed for four months. Sexual maturity occurs at the age of two years. (Dias de Avila Pires, 2004; T., 2002; Vaughan, et al., 2000)

  • Breeding interval
    Llamas breed once yearly.
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs from November to May.
  • Range number of offspring
    0 to 1
  • Average number of offspring
    1
  • Average number of offspring
    1
    AnAge
  • Range gestation period
    10 to 12 months
  • Range weaning age
    3 to 5 months
  • Range time to independence
    4 to 5 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    2 to 3 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    2 to 3 years

Female llamas are repsonsible for the bulk of parental care. Female llamas protect and care for the cria until it is about one year old. Male llamas provide some indirect care for the young. They defend a territory to provide access to sufficient grazing resources for the females and younger members of their group. Males drive away 'foreign' llamas who compete for the same resources as his own herd, as well as predators and other males. When the crias are about a year old, the male drives them off. (Ingram and Krowka, 1999; Kadwell, et al., 2001)

  • Parental Investment
  • no parental involvement
  • precocial
  • male parental care
  • female parental care
  • pre-fertilization
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • male
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • male
    • protecting
      • male
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

Well cared for domesticated individuals can live in excess of 20 years but most live for about 15 years. (Honolulu Zoo, 2004; The Rolling Hills Zoo, 1991)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    10 to 20 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    16 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    10 to 20 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    16 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    20.0 years
    Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research

Behavior

Llamas are gregarious and highly social, living in groups of up to 20 individuals. Llama groups consist of about 6 breeding females and their offspring from the current year. This group is led by a male llama that aggressively defends his position by engaging in dominance fighting. This fighting consists of the male trying to wrestle the opponent (a usurping male) to the ground by biting his limbs and wrapping his own long neck around his opponent’s. Dominance is achieved when the opponent has been pushed to the ground and has properly submitted to the victor. Llama submission stance is lying sidways on the ground with the neck lowered, and the tail raised. (Honolulu Zoo, 2004; Lewerenz, 2001; Microsoft Encarta, 2004b; Reebs, 2002)

Llamas are also known to use communally shared locations (latrines) for feces, possibly as a territorial demarcation. Like other camelids, llamas are very vocal, using a variety of low and yammering calls. Llamas make especially distinct vocalizations in the presence of predators such as canids to warn other group members of danger. Llamas are aggressive towards predators and have been reported charging, kicking, biting, and spitting at those they deem a threat. (Honolulu Zoo, 2004; Lewerenz, 2001; Reebs, 2002; T., 2002)

Home Range

Little is known of llamas in the wild, but their behavior in captivity resembles in many ways that of their wild cousins, L. guanicoe. Llamas are highly territorial and, although kept in captivity, individuals will still defend areas that they have laid claim too (be that outside a fenced area or not.) Generally llamas will claim anywhere in eyeshot for territory but will adopt a pasture where they are introduced. If sheep are present, most llamas will adopt them into the family group and defend them as if they were llamas themselves. Because of their aggression and protectiveness towards other animals, llamas are commonly used as as guard animals for sheep, goats, and horses. (Ingram and Krowka, 1999; Microsoft Encarta, 2004b; The Rolling Hills Zoo, 1991)

Communication and Perception

Llamas will vocalize to warn the herd of predators and to express vexation. Communal feces piles may serve as a specific herd's territorial demarcation, and may function through both visual and scent components. Tactile communication is important between rival males, as well as between mothers and their young. The presence of a submissive position indicates that llamas use body postures as visual signals of dominance. (Dias de Avila Pires, 2004; Ingram and Krowka, 1999; Lewerenz, 2001)

Food Habits

Llamas browse on low shrubs, lichens, and mountain vegetation. Llamas make use of native shrubs and grasses including Parastrephia sp., Baccharis sp. (shrubs) as well as Munroa sp., Eragrostis sp., and Triseobromus sp. (grasses). Llamas tend to live in very dry climates and get most of the moisture from their food. Camelids consume about 2 to 3 gallons of water, and 1.8% of their body weight in dry food (grass, hay) per day. Llamas have three stomachs and are ruminants. When kept as domestic animals llamas adapt well to the same diet as sheep and goats. (Anderson, 2002; The Rolling Hills Zoo, 1991; Vaughan, et al., 2000)

  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • roots and tubers
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • sap or other plant fluids
  • bryophytes
  • lichens

Predation

Most predation on llamas is by small canids, including coyotes, although pumas and humans were the greatest exploiters of llama populations before the species underwent geographic redistribution throughout the world. ("Llama", 2004; Stamberg and Wilson, 1997)

Ecosystem Roles

Llamas are about the ecological equivalant of a large deer. They browse on low vegetation and their padded foot does less damage to the grazing area than the hooves of other livestock. (Stamberg and Wilson, 1997)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Llamas are domesticated animals, and so are inherently important to human economies. The thick, coarse wool of llamas is valuable. These animals are sheared every two years, yielding about 3 kg of fleece. Farmers have used L. glama to curb predation of sheep by canids. By incorporating a few llamas into their sheep or goat flocks, studies indicate that predation drops sharply. Llamas have also been used as golf caddies and as farmyard pets. Historically llamas were used to haul loads over the Andean mountains because of their ability to carry burdens in excess of 60 kg for up to 30 km per day. ("Llama", 2004; Dias de Avila Pires, 2004; Honolulu Zoo, 2004; Lewerenz, 2001)

  • Positive Impacts
  • pet trade
  • body parts are source of valuable material

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no reported negative effects on human economies created by llamas.

Conservation Status

Llamas are not endangered and are in fact quite widespread today. There are nearly 3 million individuals worldwide with nearly 70% of the population located in Bolivia. (Parera, 2002)

Contributors

Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Charles Portman (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor, instructor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Australian

Living in Australia, New Zealand, Tasmania, New Guinea and associated islands.

World Map

Nearctic

living in the Nearctic biogeographic province, the northern part of the New World. This includes Greenland, the Canadian Arctic islands, and all of the North American as far south as the highlands of central Mexico.

World Map

Neotropical

living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

Palearctic

living in the northern part of the Old World. In otherwords, Europe and Asia and northern Africa.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

agricultural

living in landscapes dominated by human agriculture.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

diurnal
  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
dominance hierarchies

ranking system or pecking order among members of a long-term social group, where dominance status affects access to resources or mates

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

folivore

an animal that mainly eats leaves.

herbivore

An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.

induced ovulation

ovulation is stimulated by the act of copulation (does not occur spontaneously)

introduced

referring to animal species that have been transported to and established populations in regions outside of their natural range, usually through human action.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

male parental care

parental care is carried out by males

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

mountains

This terrestrial biome includes summits of high mountains, either without vegetation or covered by low, tundra-like vegetation.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.

polygynous

having more than one female as a mate at one time

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

territorial

defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement

visual

uses sight to communicate

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born

References

2004. "Llama" (On-line). Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Accessed February 06, 2004 at http://search.eb.com/article?eu=49780.

Apparel Search Company. 2003. "Vicuna Research" (On-line). Accessed February 11, 2004 at http://www.apparelsearch.com/education_research_vicuna.htm#THE%20VICU%D1A%92S%20SOCIAL%20BEHAVIOR.

Anderson, D. 2002. "Environmental Impact Statement" (On-line). The Llama Crossing. Accessed February 07, 2004 at http://www.llamacrossing.com/DrAnderson.shtml.

Dias de Avila Pires, F. 2004. "Grolier Online" (On-line). Encyclopedia Americana. Accessed February 06, 2004 at http://go.grolier.com/gol.

Honolulu Zoo, 2004. "Honolulu Zoo" (On-line). Llama. Accessed February 06, 2004 at http://www.honoluluzoo.org/llama.htm.

Ingram, G., J. Krowka. 1999. "Problematic behavior in llamas and misdirected territorial aggression" (On-line). lost creek llamas. Accessed February 19, 2004 at http://home.att.net/~lostcreekllamas/mta.html.

Kadwell, M., M. Fernandez, H. Stanley, R. Baldi, J. Wheeler, R. Rosadio, M. Bruford. 2001. Genetic analysis reeals the wild ancestors of the llama and alpaca. Proceedings: Biological Sciences, 268/1485: 2575-2584.

Lewerenz, D. 2001. Llamas take over for shepherds. Capper's, 123/14: 15.

Microsoft Encarta, 2004. "Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2004" (On-line). Accessed February 06, 2004 at http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761555939/Llama.html.

Microsoft Encarta, 2004. "Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2004" (On-line). Accessed February 06, 2004 at http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761560223/Andes.html.

Parera, A. 2002. Los mamiferos de la Argentinia y la region austral de Sudamerica. Argentina: A editorial el Ateneo.

Reebs, S. 2002. Wooly ancestry. American Museum of Natural History, 111/5: 16.

Smith, B., K. Timm, P. Reed. 1992. Morphometric evaluation of growth in llamas from birth to maturity. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 200/1095-100: 108-163.

Sorin, A. 2002. "Animal Diversity Web" (On-line). Lama guanico (guanaco). Accessed February 19, 2004 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Lama_guanicoe.html.

Stamberg, G., D. Wilson. 1997. "Llamapaedia" (On-line). Accessed February 10, 2004 at http://www.llamapaedia.com/uses/guard.html.

T., L. 2002. "Llama" (On-line). Accessed February 06, 2004 at http://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/llama.htm.

The Rolling Hills Zoo, 1991. "The Animals at the Rolling Hills Zoo" (On-line). Accessed February 06, 2004 at http://www.rhrwildlife.com/theanimals/l/llama/.

Vaughan, T., J. Ryan, N. Czaplewski. 2000. Mammalogy. United States of America: Thomson Learning, Inc..