Towards a genetic improvement program of Alpacas using genomics and nuclear techniques

Towards a genetic improvement program of Alpacas using genomics and nuclear techniques Living in highlands above 4000m is not an easy task. However, in the Andean region, it is possible to find communities of humans and livestock that have been sharing a fragile environment in harmony for hundreds of years. One of the major components of this ecosystem is the South American camelid species (including alpacas, llamas, vicuna and guanaco). The llama and the alpaca are domesticated; the guanaco and the vicuna run wild. Alpacas and llamas are the most endemic species and the regional herds total 4,000,000 head of each species.

The Instituto Peruano de Energia Nuclear (IPEN) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in a pioneer initiative, are collaborating in the long-term goal of identifying genomic regions, and ultimately the genes and their functions, in the alpaca genome that are associated with phenotypic differences in the productivity traits of alpacas. The aim is to identify expressed genes and genetic markers that account for significant contributions to phenotypic variation in traits of economic importance in alpacas. This resource will become an additional tool to increase the production and health of the alpaca population that are crucial to the economy of the Peruvian Highlands and surrounding regions (including those in Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina).

This genomic information will set the basis to assist alpaca fibre producers with molecular tools and nuclear techniques to improve animal health, fibre quality, fleece weight and sustainable production.