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Extinct Large-headed Llama (Hemiauchenia macrocephalus) Fact Sheet: Physical Characteristics

Extinct Large-headed Llama (Hemiauchenia macrocephalus)

How Do We Know This?

Study of fossil bone and tooth anatomy yields much exact information about placement and strength of muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and blood vessels. In rare cases, skin and hair impressions or actual skin or hair is preserved. Body weight is more difficult to gauge because fat leaves no impression on the skeleton. A few extinct Pleistocene lions were painted by observant paleolithic artists.

Physical Characteristics

Body measurements

Weight 300 kg (661 lb)
Length 2.0 m (6.5 ft)

General Appearance

General Description

  • A small camel similar in size and appearance to the modern domestic llama, except for its longer neck and more slender limbs (Shaw 2001)
  • Fossils in the genus are best distinguished by long slender legs, long and narrow foot bones, and details of the anatomy of its terminal toe bones (Webb 2006)


  • High crowned (hypsodont) teeth
  • Canine teeth are recurved and somewhat flattened sideways
  • Lower incisors protrude outwards (procumbant) (Webb 2006)


  • Unknown but most likely similar to modern dromedary and bactrian camels

Sexual Dimorphism

  • Dalquest (1992) reported Hemiauchenia may have had more sexual dimorphism than seen in modern llamas.

Other Physical and Physiological Characteristics

  • As in all camelids, long toe and finger bones (medapodials) allow for a long stride and a pacing gait (Webb et al 2006)
  • Limb proportions mirror those of the African gerenuk (Shaw 2001)
    • Some researchers speculate Hemiauchenia, like the gerenuk, had the ability to browse upright on hind legs (Shaw 2001)

Page Citations

Shaw (2001)
Janis et al. (2002)
Shaw (2001)
Webb (2006)

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