Articles on this page are available in 1 other language: Spanish (1) (learn more)

Overview

Comprehensive Description

The llama (Lama glama) is a large animal (around 130 to 155 kg) and is able to carry a load of 96 kg at a rate of 26 km/day over rugged mountain terrain at an elevation of 5000 m. Llamas played a major role in the development of the Inca Empire, providing invaluable service as beasts of burden (the llama is apparently the only animal domesticated by native peoples of the New World that was used for this purpose). Llamas were also used as a source of meat, fat for making candles, materials for making clothes and rope, and dried excrement that could be used as fuel. Llama hemoglobin has a an unusually high affinity for oxygen and the blood contains an usually high concentration of red blood cells, at least partially explaining the ability of llamas to function so well at high altitudes. (Nowak 1991 and references therein)

The llama is one of four South American camelids (mammals in the camel family) recognized today, two of which are wild species, the guanaco (Lama guanicoe) and the vicuña (Vicugna vicugna), and two of which are domesticated forms, the alpaca (Lama pacos or Vicugna pacos) and the llama.

Wild vicuña and guanaco diverged from a shared ancestor two to three million years ago. (Wheeler 1995). At one time it was widely believed that both the alpaca and llama were derived from guanacos. However, in light of new archaeozoological evidence from 6000 to 7000 years ago in the central Peruvian Andes linking alpaca origins to the vicuña, Kadwell et al. (2001) investigated the origins of these domesticated forms using mitochondrial and nuclear DNA markers. Their results confirmed the hypothesis that the llama is derived from the guanaco, but indicated that the alpaca is actually derived from the vicuña, not the guanaco (their investigation also revealed genetic evidence of historical hybridization and gene flow, at least among domesticated forms). Chromosomal analyses have also indicated that the llama was derived from the guanaco and the alpaca from the vicuña (Marín et al. 2007).

Like the guanaco, the llama feeds by both grazing and browsing (the vicuña and alpaca are strictly grazers) (Nowak 1991 and references therein).

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Shapiro, Leo

Source: EOL Rapid Response Team

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Distribution

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.

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Introduced ); palearctic (Introduced ); neotropical (Native ); australian (Introduced )

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Physical Description

Morphology

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.

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.

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.

Range mass: 130 to 155 kg.

Average mass: 140 kg.

Range length: .92 to 1.6 m.

Average length: 1.2 m.

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Average basal metabolic rate: 148.94 W.

  • Dias de Avila Pires, F. 2004. "Grolier Online" (On-line). Encyclopedia Americana. Accessed February 06, 2004 at http://go.grolier.com/gol.
  • Parera, A. 2002. Los mamiferos de la Argentinia y la region austral de Sudamerica. Argentina: A editorial el Ateneo.
  • T., L. 2002. "Llama" (On-line). Accessed February 06, 2004 at http://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/llama.htm.
  • Vaughan, T., J. Ryan, N. Czaplewski. 2000. Mammalogy. United States of America: Thomson Learning, Inc..
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Ecology

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.

Range elevation: 2300 to 4000 m.

Average elevation: 3000 m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: mountains

Other Habitat Features: agricultural

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Trophic Strategy

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.

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

Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Associations

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.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

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.

Known Predators:

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Life History and Behavior

Behavior

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.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Life Expectancy

Well cared for domesticated individuals can live in excess of 20 years but most live for about 15 years.

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.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 28.9 years (captivity) Observations: One captive specimen was still alive at 28.9 years of age (Richard Weigl 2005).
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Joao Pedro de Magalhaes

Source: AnAge

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

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.

Mating System: polygynous

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.

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.

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.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; year-round breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; induced ovulation ; fertilization ; viviparous

Average birth mass: 11000 g.

Average number of offspring: 1.

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.

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)

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Lama glama

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 3 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

AACCGCTGATTATTTTCAACAAACCACAAAGATATCGGTACCCTCTATCTGCTATTCGGCGCTTGGGCTGGGATAGTAGGAACAGGGCTA---AGTCTACTGATTCGAGCCGAATTAGGACAGCCCGGAACGCTACTCGGAGAT---GACCAAATCTACAACGTAGTTGTTACGGCCCACGCATTTGTTATAATTTTCTTTATAGTTATACCAATCATGATCGGGGGCTTCGGAAATTGACTAGTTCCTTTAATG---ATTGGCGCACCAGACATGGCATTCCCCCGTATGAACAACATGAGCTTCTGGCTGCTACCCCCCTCATTCCTATTACTTCTAGCATCATCCATAGTTGAAGCCGGGGCAGGCACTGGTTGAACTGTTTACCCTCCCCTAGCCGGAAACCTGGCCCATGCAGGTGCTTCTGTTGACCTA---ACTATTTTCTCCTTACACCTAGCAGGAGTATCTTCAATCCTAGGGGCCATTAATTTTATTACTACTATCATCAACATAAAACCACCCGCCATATCCCAATATCAGACTCCCCTGTTCGTCTGATCCGTCTTAATCACCGCTGTCCTCTTACTACTCTCCCTGCCAGTACTAGCAGCC---GGTATTACTATACTACTAACAGATCGTAACTTAAATACAACTTTCTTTGATCCTGCAGGAGGAGGAGACCCCATCCTGTACCAACATCTATTCTGATTCTTCGGCCACCCAGAAGTCTATATTCTAATTTTACCTGGCTTTGGAATAATCTCCCACATCGTCACTTATTACTCTGGAAAAAAG---GAACCCTTCGGCTACATGGGAATAGTCTGAGCTATGATATCCATTGGCTTCCTAGGCTTTATTGTGTGAGCCCACCACATATTTACCGTAGGTATAGACGTAGATACACGCGCTTATTTTACATCCGCCACAATAATCATTGCAATCCCAACGGGAGTAAAAGTATTTAGTTGACTA---GCAACACTCCACGGAGGC---AACATTAAATGATCCCCCGCTATACTATGAGCTCTAGGCTTTATCTTCCTGTTCACCGTAGGAGGTCTAACAGGAATTGTACTAGCCAATTCATCATTAGATATTGTTCTTCACGACACATATTATGTAGTTGCCCACTTCCACTATGTC---TTGTCAATAGGGGCAGTATTTGCCATCATAGGAGGACTAATCCACTGATTCCCATTATTCTCGGGATACACTATTGATGATACATGGGCAAAAATTCAGTTCGCAATTATATTTGTAGGCGTAAATCTAACTTTCTTCCCACAACATTTTTTAGGTCTCTCTGGAATACCTCGA---CGCTACTCTGACTACCCAGATGCCTACACC---ACATGAAACACTATCTCATCTGTGGGCTCCTTCATCTCCTTAACAGCAGTTATCCTAATGGTTTTTATTGTATGAGAGGCATTTGCATCAAAACGAGAAGTT---ATAACCGTAGAGCTAACAGCCACCAAT
-- end --

Download FASTA File

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Lama glama

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 3
Specimens with Barcodes: 3
Species With Barcodes: 1
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Conservation

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.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

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

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

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.

Positive Impacts: pet trade ; body parts are source of valuable material

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Disclaimer

EOL content is automatically assembled from many different content providers. As a result, from time to time you may find pages on EOL that are confusing.

To request an improvement, please leave a comment on the page. Thank you!