The animals which specially belong to the Peruvian Andes are the domestic llamas and alpacas and the wild vicunas.
In this sense, llamas are characterized as follows.
Llamas are now confined to the western and southernmost parts of South America, though fossil remains have been found in the caves of Brazil, and in the pampas of the Argentine Republic.
The species of Camelops were probably fully as large as llamas, and some, at any rate, resembled these animals as regards the number of teeth, the incisors being reduced to one upper and three lower pairs, and the cheekteeth to four or five in the upper and four in the lower jaw; the total number of teeth thus being 28 or 30 in place of the 44 of Poebrotherium.
In caverns and superficial deposits of South America occur remains of extinct species more or less closely related to modern llamas; but previous to the Upper Pliocene the group is unknown in South America, which it reached from the north.
They are not used as beasts of burden like llamas, but are valued only for their wool, of which the Indian blankets and ponchos are made.
The rearing of llamas and alpacas is a recognized industry in the Bolivian highlands and is wholly in the hands of the Indians, who alone seem to understand the habits and peculiarities of these interesting animals.
On the higher and colder plateaus much attention is given to the breeding of llamas and alpacas.
In the loftiest regions the pasture chiefly consists of a coarse grass (Stipa ychu), of which the llamas eat the upper blades and the sheep browse on the tender shoots beneath.
- As regards the past history of the group, remains of fossil species of Camelus have been obtained from the superficial deposits of various parts of Russia, Rumania, and Siberia, and others from the Lower Pliocene of northern India; the molar teeth of these latter presenting the additional column referred to above as distinguishing those of the llamas from those of modern camels.