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Chilihueque

Artist's interpretation of the creature

The chilihueque or hueque (Lama araucana), an extinct hypothetical species of South American camelid, inhabited central and southern Chile until the colonial era.

Taxonomy[]

Juan Ignacio Molina first scientifically described the chilihueque in 1782, naming it Camelus araucanus. Johann Baptist Fischer reassigned it to Lama in 1829. Pierre Boitard proposed an alternate name, Lama chilihueque, in 1841. The species' origin is debated, with one hypothesis suggesting it was a locally-domesticated guanaco, while another proposes it was a llama or alpaca introduced from the north. Mitochondrial DNA analysis of bones from Mocha Island supports the former hypothesis.

Description[]

According to Molina, Joris van Spilbergen observed the Mapuche of Mocha Island using chilihueques as plough animals. They were ritually slaughtered by the Mapuche, with white individuals reserved for dignitaries and those of other colors shared with commoners. Chilihueque populations declined through the 16th and 17th centuries, being outnumbered by European-introduced livestock. The exact date of their extinction is uncertain, but it was likely in the late 18th century. At that time, only the Mapuche in Huequén and Mariquina still raised the species according to Tomás Guevara.

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