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Journal of thermal biology

High follicle density does not decrease sweat gland density in Huacaya alpacas.


PMID 25526647

Abstract

When exposed to high ambient temperatures, mammals lose heat evaporatively by either sweating from glands in the skin or by respiratory panting. Like other camelids, alpacas are thought to evaporate more water by sweating than panting, despite a thick fleece, unlike sheep which mostly pant in response to heat stress. Alpacas were brought to Australia to develop an alternative fibre industry to sheep wool. In Australia, alpacas can be exposed to ambient temperatures higher than in their native South America. As a young industry there is a great deal of variation in the quality and quantity of the fleece produced in the national flock. There is selection pressure towards animals with finer and denser fleeces. Because the fibre from secondary follicles is finer than that from primary follicles, selecting for finer fibres might alter the ratio of primary and secondary follicles. In turn the selection might alter sweat gland density because the sweat glands are associated with the primary follicle. Skin biopsy and fibre samples were obtained from the mid-section of 33 Huacaya alpacas and the skin sections were processed into horizontal sections at the sebaceous gland level. Total, primary, and secondary follicles and the number of sweat gland ducts were quantified. Fibre samples from each alpaca were further analysed for mean fibre diameter. The finer-fibred animals had a higher total follicle density (P<0.001) and more sweat glands (P<0.001) than the thicker-fibred animals. The fibre diameter and total follicle density were negatively correlated (R(2)=0.56, P<0.001). Given that the finer-fibred animals had higher follicle density and more sweat glands than animals with thicker fibres, we conclude that alpacas with high follicle density should not be limited for potential sweating ability.