Definitions

guanaco

guanaco

[gwah-nah-koh]
guanaco or huanaco, wild mammal of the camel family, Lama guanicoe, found on arid plains in the Andes Mts. It is about 31/2 ft (105 cm) high at the shoulder, with a long neck; it is brown on the back and sides, with light underparts and a dark face. Although previously regarded by some authorities as the ancestor of the domestic llama and alpaca, genetic studies show that only the llama is descended from it. The guanaco is not domesticated, but indigenous South Americans use its flesh for food and make its hide into clothing and other coverings and its bones into various implements. Encroachments on its grazing land have reduced its numbers. The guanaco is classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Artiodactyla, family Camelidae.

Slender-bodied South American lamoid (Lama guanacoe; see alpaca). The guanaco has long legs and neck, a short tail, and large, pointed ears. It lives in small bands of females, usually led by a male, and grazes on grass and other plants, ranging from the snow line to sea level throughout the Andes Mountains from Peru and Bolivia to Tierra del Fuego. The adult stands 43 in. (110 cm) tall at the shoulder and is pale brown above and white below, with a grayish head. The downy fibre covering the young is valued for textiles, and guanaco pelts are used by the fur industry.

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The guanaco (Lama guanicoe) is a camelid animal native to South America that stands between 107 and 122 centimeters (3.5 and 4 feet) at the shoulder and weighs about 90 kg (200 lb). The colour varies very little, ranging from a light brown to dark cinnamon and shading to white underneath. Guanacos have grey faces and small straight ears. They are extremely striking with their large, alert brown eyes, streamlined form, and energetic pace. They are particularly ideal for keeping in large groups in open parklands.

Name

The name Guanaco comes from the South American language Quechua word "huanaco." The young guanacos are named chulengo(s).

Population and distribution

The guanaco is native to the arid, mountainous regions of South America. Guanaco are found in the altiplano of Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile and Argentina. In Chile and Argentina they are more numerous in Patagonian regions, in places like the Torres del Paine National Park, and Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego in fact has an overpopulation of guanacos. Bolivian Indians have been known to raise guanacos to help them regain their population stability. A guanaco's average life span is 20-25 years.

Current estimates place their numbers at 500,000.

Behavior

Guanacos live in herds composed of females, their young and a dominant male. Bachelor males form a separate herd. While female groups tend to remain small, often containing no more than ten adults, bachelor herds may have as many as 50 animals present. When they feel threatened, guanacos alert the herd to flee with a high-pitched bleating call. The male will usually run behind the herd in order to defend them. They can run with a speed of 56 km (35 mi) per hour, often over steep and rocky terrain. They are also excellent swimmers.

Guanacos are the largest mammal found in South America. They have only one natural predator, the mountain lion or puma. Guanacos will often spit when threatened.

Mating Season

Mating season occurs between November and February, during which males often fight violently to establish dominance and breeding rights. To protect their necks from harm, they have developed thicker skin on their neck, a trait still found in their domestic counterparts, the llama, vicuña, and alpaca . Bolivians use the necks of these animals to make shoes, flattening and pounding the skin to be used for the soles. After this long process of condensation and compression, the skin becomes very hard. If it is not done properly it can absorb small amounts of water and become slippery to walk on.

Eleven months later, a single calf, or chulengo, is born. Calves are able to walk immediately after birth. Male calves are chased off from the herd at approximately one year of age.

Hemoglobin Levels

Guanacos are often found at high altitudes, up to 3,962 meters (13,000 feet) above sea level. In order to survive the low oxygen levels found at these high altitudes, a teaspoon of a guanaco's blood contains approximately 68 million red blood cell - 4 times that of a human.

Guanaco Fibers

Guanaco fiber is particularly prized for its soft warm feel and is found in luxury fabric. The guanaco's soft wool is second only to that of the vicuña. The pelts, particularly from the calves, are sometimes used as a substitute for red fox pelts because its texture is difficult to differentiate. Like their domestic descendant, the llama, the guanaco is double coated with a coarse guard hair and soft undercoat, which is approximately 16-18 µ in diameter and is finer than the best cashmere.

References

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