Open Access Open Badges Research article

Fleece variation in alpaca (Vicugna pacos): a two-locus model for the Suri/Huacaya phenotype

Silvano Presciuttini1*, Alessandro Valbonesi2, Nolberto Apaza3, Marco Antonini3, Teodosio Huanca4 and Carlo Renieri2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Physiological Sciences, University of Pisa, Via San Zeno 31, 56123 Pisa, Italy

2 Department of Environmental Sciences, University of Camerino, Camerino, Italy

3 INIA, ILLPA Puno, Rinconada Salcedo, Puno, Peru

4 Ente per le Nuove Tecnologie, l'Energia e l'Ambiente, Roma, Italy

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BMC Genetics 2010, 11:70  doi:10.1186/1471-2156-11-70

Published: 20 July 2010



Genetic improvement of fibre-producing animal species has often induced transition from double coated to single coated fleece, accompanied by dramatic changes in skin follicles and hair composition, likely implying variation at multiple loci. Huacaya, the more common fleece phenotype in alpaca (Vicugna pacos), is characterized by a thick dense coat growing perpendicularly from the body, whereas the alternative rare and more prized single-coated Suri phenotype is distinguished by long silky fibre that grows parallel to the body and hangs in separate, distinctive pencil locks. A single-locus genetic model has been proposed for the Suri-Huacaya phenotype, where Huacaya is recessive.


Two reciprocal experimental test-crosses (Suri × Huacaya) were carried out, involving a total of 17 unrelated males and 149 unrelated females. An additional dataset of 587 offspring of Suri × Suri crosses was analyzed. Segregation ratios, population genotype frequencies, and/or recombination fraction under different genetic models were estimated by maximum likelihood. The single locus model for the Suri/Huacaya phenotype was rejected. In addition, we present two unexpected observations: 1) a large proportion (about 3/4) of the Suri animals are segregating (with at least one Huacaya offspring), even in breeding conditions where the Huacaya trait would have been almost eliminated; 2) a model with two different values of the segregation ratio fit the data significantly better than a model with a single parameter.


The data support a genetic model in which two linked loci must simultaneously be homozygous for recessive alleles in order to produce the Huacaya phenotype. The estimated recombination rate between these loci was 0.099 (95% C.L. = 0.029-0.204). Our genetic analysis may be useful for other species whose breeding system produces mainly half-sib families.