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alpaca(ălpăk`ə), partially domesticated South American mammal, Lama pacos, of the camelcamel,
ruminant mammal of the family Camelidae. The family consists of three genera, the true camels of Asia (genus Camelus); the wild guanaco and the domesticated alpaca and llama, all of South America (genus Lama
..... Click the link for more information. family. Genetic studies show that it is a descendant of the vicuñavicuña
, wild South American hoofed mammal, Vicugna vicugna, the smallest member of the camel family. It is 30 in. (75 cm) high at the shoulder, with a long, slender neck and pale, fawn coloring.
..... Click the link for more information. . Although the flesh is sometimes used for food, the animal is bred chiefly for its long, lustrous wool, which varies from black, through shades of brown, to white. Flocks of alpaca are kept by indigenous people in the highlands of Bolivia, Chile, and Peru. They feed on grasses growing close to the snow line, and they require a pure water supply.
The Incas had domesticated the alpaca and utilized its wool before the Spanish Conquest, but subsequently the alpaca and the llama were extensively hybridized, leading to a gradual reduction in the amount of high quality alpaca wool. Exporting of alpaca wool to Europe began after Sir Titus Salt discovered (1836) a way of manufacturing alpaca cloth. Breeding alpacas is a small but growing industry in the United States, Canada, and some other non-Andean nations.
Alpacas are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
..... Click the link for more information. , subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Artiodactyla, family Camelidae.