Llamas and alpacas are partly descended from extinct ‘ghost’ species

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guanacos

Adult guanacos (Lama guanicoe) in southern Chile, South America

Wayne Lynch/Alamy

Llamas have serious history. Domestic llamas and alpacas carry DNA that comes from an extinct ‘ghost’ population of their wild camelid relatives. Furthermore, their domestication may have involved interbreeding between two different species.

Domestic llamas (Lama glama) and alpacas (Vicugna pacos) were crucial for South American peoples like the Incas. But their origins are mysterious, says Paloma Fernández Diaz-Maroto of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

There are two wild South American camelids: guanacos (Lama guanicoe) that live in many habitats, and vicuñas (Vicugna vicugna) …

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