The alpaca (Lama pacos) is a species of South American camelid mammal. It is similar to, and often confused with, the llama. However, alpacas are often noticeably smaller than llamas. The two animals are closely related and can successfully crossbreed. Both species are believed to have been domesticated from their wild relatives, the vicuña and guanaco. There are two breeds of alpaca: the Suri alpaca and the Huacaya alpaca.
Alpacas communicate through body language. The most common is spitting to show dominance when they are in distress, fearful, or feel agitated. Male alpacas are more aggressive than females, and tend to establish dominance within their herd group. In some cases, alpha males will immobilize the head and neck of a weaker or challenging male in order to show their strength and dominance.
In the textile industry, "alpaca" primarily refers to the hair of Peruvian alpacas, but more broadly it refers to a style of fabric originally made from alpaca hair, such as mohair, Icelandic sheep wool, or even high-quality wool from other breeds of sheep. In trade, distinctions are made between alpacas and the several styles of mohair and luster.
An adult alpaca generally is between 81 and 99 centimetres (32 and 39 inches) in height at the shoulders (withers). They usually weigh between 48 and 90 kilograms (106 and 198 pounds). Raised in the same conditions, the difference in weight can be small with males weighting around 22.3 kilograms (49 lb 3 oz) and females 21.3 kilograms (46 lb 15 oz).
The relationship between alpacas and vicuñas was disputed for many years. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the four South American lamoid species were assigned scientific names. At that time, the alpaca was assumed to be descended from the llama, ignoring similarities in size, fleece and dentition between the alpaca and the vicuña. Classification was complicated by the fact that all four species of South American camelid can interbreed and produce fertile offspring. The advent of DNA technology made a more accurate classification possible.
In 2001, the alpaca genus classification changed from Lama pacos to Vicugna pacos, following the presentation of a paper on work by Miranda Kadwell et al. on alpaca DNA to the Royal Society showing the alpaca is descended from the vicuña, not the guanaco.
Alpacas were domesticated thousands of years ago. The Moche people of Northern Peru often used alpaca images in their art. There are no known wild alpacas, and its closest living relative, the vicuña (also native to South America), is the wild ancestor of the alpaca.
Remains of vicuña and guanaco have been found throughout Peru for around 12,000 years. Their domesticated counterparts, the llama and alpacas, have been found mummified in the Moquegua valley, in the south of Peru, dating back 900 to 1000 years. Mummies found in this region show two breeds of alpacas. More precise analysis of bone and teeth of these mummies has demonstrated that alpacas were domesticated from the Vicugna vicugna. Other research, considering the behavioral and morphological characteristics of alpacas and their wild counterparts, seems to indicate that alpacas could find their origins in Lama guanicoe as well as Vicugna vicugna, or even a hybrid of both.
Genetic analysis shows a different picture of the origins of the alpaca. Analysis of mitochondrial DNA shows that most alpacas have guanaco mtDNA, and many also have vicuña mtDNA. But microsatellite data shows that alpaca DNA is much more similar to vicuña DNA than to guanaco DNA. This suggests that alpacas are descendants of the Vicugna vicugna, not of the Lama guanicoe. The discrepancy with mtDNA seems to be a result of the fact that mtDNA is only transmitted by the mother, and recent husbandry practices have caused hybridization between llamas (which primarily carry guanaco DNA) and alpacas. To the extent that many of today's domestic alpacas are the result of male alpacas bred to female llamas, this would explain the mtDNA consistent with guanacos. This situation has led to attempts to reclassify the alpaca as Vicugna pacos.
Huacaya alpacas are the most commonly found, constituting about 90% of the population. The Huacaya alpaca is thought to have originated in post-colonial Peru. This is due to their thicker fleece which makes them more suited to survive in the higher altitudes of the Andes after being pushed into the highlands of Peru with the arrival of the Spanish.[better source needed]
Suri alpacas represent a smaller portion of the total alpaca population, around 10%. They are thought to have been more prevalent in pre-Columbian Peru since they could be kept at a lower altitude where a thicker fleece was not needed for harsh weather conditions.[better source needed]
Alpacas are social herd animals that live in family groups, consisting of a territorial alpha male, females, and their young ones. Alpacas warn the herd about intruders by making sharp, noisy inhalations that sound like a high-pitched bray. The herd may attack smaller predators with their front feet and can spit and kick. Their aggression towards members of the canid family (coyotes, foxes, dogs etc.) is exploited when alpacas are used as guard llamas for guarding sheep.
Alpacas can sometimes be aggressive, but they can also be very gentle, intelligent, and extremely observant. For the most part, alpacas are very quiet, but male alpacas are more energetic when they get involved in fighting with other alpacas. When they prey, they are cautious but also nervous when they feel any type of threat. They can feel threatened when a person or another alpaca comes up from behind them.[better source needed]
Alpacas set their own boundaries of "personal space" within their families and groups. They make a hierarchy in some sense, and each alpaca is aware of the dominant animals in each group. Body language is the key to their communication. It helps to maintain their order. One example of their body communication includes a pose named broadside, where their ears are pulled back and they stand sideways. This pose is used when male alpacas are defending their territory.
When they are young, they tend to follow larger objects and to sit near or under them. An example of this is a baby alpaca with its mother. This can also apply when an alpaca passes by an older alpaca.
Not all alpacas spit, but all are capable of doing so. "Spit" is somewhat euphemistic; occasionally the projectile contains only air and a little saliva, although alpacas commonly bring up acidic stomach contents (generally a green, grassy mix) and project it onto their chosen targets. Spitting is mostly reserved for other alpacas, but an alpaca will also occasionally spit at a human.
Alpacas can spit for several reasons. A female alpaca spits when she is not interested in a male alpaca, typically when she thinks that she is already impregnated. Both sexes of alpaca keep others away from their food, or anything they have their eyes on. Most give a slight warning before spitting by blowing air out and raising their heads, giving their ears a "pinned" appearance.
Some signs of stress which can lead to their spitting habits include: humming, a wrinkle under their eye, drooling, rapid breathing, and stomping their feet. When alpacas show any sign of interest or alertness, they tend to sniff their surroundings, watch closely, or stand quietly in place and stare.
Alpacas can breed at any time throughout the year but it is more difficult to breed in the winter. Most breed during autumn or late spring. The most popular way to have alpacas mate is pen mating. Pen mating is when they move both the female and the desired male into a pen. Another way is paddock mating where one male alpaca is let loose in the paddock with several female alpacas.
They are easy to care for since they are not limited to a specific type of environment. Animals such as flamingos, condors, spectacled bears, mountain lions, coyotes, llamas, and sheep live near alpacas when they are in their natural habitat.
Alpacas are native to Peru, but can be found throughout the globe in captivity. Peru currently has the largest alpaca population, with over half the world's animals. The population declined drastically after the Spanish Conquistadors invaded the Andes mountains in 1532, after which 98% of the animals were destroyed. The Spanish also brought with them diseases that were fatal to alpacas.
European conquest forced the animals to move higher into the mountains,[how?] which remained there permanently. Although alpacas had almost been wiped out completely, they were rediscovered sometime during the 19th century by Europeans. After finding uses for them, the animals became important to societies during the industrial revolution.
Interest in alpacas grew as a result of Depp v. Heard, the 2022 trial in which Johnny Depp sued Amber Heard for defamation in Virginia after Heard wrote an op-ed saying she was a public victim of domestic violence. Depp testified, under oath, that he would not make another Pirates of the Caribbean film for "300 million dollars and a million alpacas".
Alpacas chew their food which ends up being mixed with their cud and saliva and then they swallow it. Alpacas usually eat 1.5% of their body weight daily for normal growth. They mainly need pasture grass, hay, or silage but some may also need supplemental energy and protein foods and they will also normally try to chew on almost anything (e.g. empty bottle). Most alpaca ranchers rotate their feeding grounds so the grass can regrow and fecal parasites may die before reusing the area. Pasture grass is a great source of protein. When seasons change, the grass loses or gains more protein. For example, in the spring, the pasture grass has about 20% protein while in the summer, it only has 6%. They need more energy supplements in the winter to produce body heat and warmth. They get their fiber from hay or from long stems which provides them with vitamin E. Green grass contains vitamin A and E. 041b061a72