Llamas and alpacas carry genes from mysterious ‘ghost’ relatives
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By Michael Marshall

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

Wayne Lynch/Alamy

Domestic llamas and alpacas carry DNA 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 at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

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

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