Energy expenditure and body temperature variations in llamas living in the High Andes of Peru
Some large herbivores exhibit seasonal adjustments in their energy metabolism. Therefore, our aim was to determine if the llama (one of the most extensively kept livestock breeds) exhibits seasonal adjustment of their energy expenditure, body temperature and locomotion, under its natural high altitude Andean habitat. For this purpose, energy expenditure, body temperature and locomotion were measured in seven non-pregnant llama dams for ten months on the Andean High Plateau (4400 m above sea level). Daily energy expenditure was measured as field metabolic rate using the doubly labelled water method at four different measurement times. Additionally, a telemetry system was used to continuously record activity, body temperature (3 min intervals) as well as the position (hourly) of each animal. The results show that llamas adjusted their body temperature and daily energy expenditure according to environmental conditions. Furthermore, llamas under high altitude Andean climatic conditions exhibited a pronounced daily rhythm in body temperature and activity, with low values at sunrise and increasing values towards sunset. Llamas also had remarkably low energy expenditure compared to other herbivores. Thus, despite the domestication process, llamas have not lost the ability to adjust their body temperature and daily energy expenditure under adverse environmental conditions, similar to some wild herbivores.