Seasonal changes in energy expenditure, body temperature and activity patterns in llamas (Lama glama)

Alexander Riek, Lea Brinkmann, Matthias Gauly, Jurcevic Perica, Thomas Ruf, Walter Arnold, Catherine Hambly, John R. Speakman, Martina Gerken

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Mammals typically keep their body temperature (Tb) within a narrow limit with changing environmental conditions. There are indications that some wild ungulates can exhibit certain forms of energy saving mechanisms when ambient temperatures are low and/or food is scarce. Therefore, the aim of the study was to determine if the llama, one of the most extensively kept domestic livestock species, exhibits seasonal adjustment mechanisms in terms of energy expenditure, Tb and locomotion. For that purpose llamas (N = 7) were kept in a temperate habitat on pasture. Locomotor activity, Tb (measured in the rumen) and the location of each animal were recorded continuously for one year using a telemetry system. Daily energy expenditure was measured as field metabolic rate (FMR). FMR fluctuated considerably between seasons with the lowest values found in winter (17.48 ± 3.98 MJ d(-1), 402 kJ kg(-0.75) d(-1)) and the highest in summer (25.87 ± 3.88 MJ d(-1), 586 kJ kg(-0.75) d(-1)). Llamas adjusted their energy expenditure, Tb and locomotor activity according to season and also time of day. Thus, llamas seem to have maintained the ability to reduce their energy expenditure and adjust their Tb under adverse environmental conditions as has been reported for some wild ungulates.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7600
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalScientific Reports
Early online date8 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Bibliographical note

The authors thank Knut Salzmann und Arne Oppermann for technical help and for taking care of the animals and Anna Stölzl for help with the administering of the ruminal unit of the telemetry system. The study was supported by a grant from the German Research Foundation (DFG) to A.R. (RI 1796/3-1).


  • animal physiology
  • Ecophysiology


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