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Mammal Structure and Function

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South of the Equator
Teacher Contributed

Domestication The South American Way

Student Exploration

Spittin' Llamas

The domestication of animals has been taken as an indication of the mastery of humans over nature. Domesticated animals have been a cornerstone of many cultures for thousands of years (go here to find out more http://archaeology.about.com/od/dterms/a/domestication.htm). In many cases, the wild ancestors of domesticated species have essentially disappeared from the wild for a variety of reasons, such as habitat change and overhunting. But this is not true of all domesticated species, in South America the wild ancestors of Llamas and Alpacas can still be found at least for now.

Here is some footage of a Guanaco, note the movements of the animal and biome in which it lives.

Here is some footage of an Alpaca, note the habitat in which it is seen, as well as it's movements and body type. How does it compare to a Guanaco?

Here is some footage of a Vicuna, note its body type and habitat. How does the Vicuna compare to the Guanaco and Alpaca?

Here is some footage of Vicunas and Llamas. Again note the habitat in which they are encountered and compare there body types to Guanacos and Alpacas

Hopefully, by now you have a sense of the similarities and differences in these animals. Looking at these animals can you come up with examples of traits you think are derived from artificial selection and those derived from natural selection? Explain your thinking and be as specific as possible.

Go here to find out more about how these animals are doing in their natural habitat

Extension Investigation

Use the below resources to answer the following questions

  1. What do scientists believe is causing environmental change in Gran Chaco and threatening Bolivian guanacos?
  2. What characteristics do scientists look at in old skeletal remains of camelids to determine when domestication occurred?
  3. For what purpose do Alpacas seem to have been domesticated?
  4. For what purpose do Llamas seem to have been domesticated?
  5. How were Llamas used for fuel?
  6. What has genetic testing revealed about the relationship between Guanaco, Vicuna, Llama and Alpaca?

Resources Cited

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