Guanacos (Lama guanicoe) are the most important native herbivorous species in the South American steppes and the dominant ungulate in a fauna rich in rodents but poor in large mammal species. Between 2 and 4 subspecies are usually recognized within Lama guanicoe, based on subtle morphological differences and geographic distribution. To evaluate whether molecular variation is consistent with the latter hypotheses, we analyzed the complete cytochrome-b and partial control region mitochondrial DNA sequences of L. guanicoe from 22 localities in Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile. Sequence analyses of both genes support the monophyly of the species but failed to distinguish the occurrence of subspecies along the geographic range. Despite that, the northernmost populations (Peru and northern Chile) showed some degree of genetic differentiation with respect to southern representatives from Argentina, Bolivia, and rest of Chile. Analysis of genetic diversity also showed a strong signal of past low population size and a recent population expansion.
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