LLAMAS LOVE TO LIE IN THE SUN!
Llamas are highly sun-sensitive. So they wear sunglasses—but not Ray-Bans or Oakleys. Llama sunglasses are built into their eyes!
Technically, llama sunglasses are called iridic granules, or corpora nigra. These look like black bubbles at the intersection of the pupil (the black part of the eye) and the iris (the colored part of the eye). When llamas need their sunglasses, the bubbles above the pupil interlock (interdigitate) vertically with the bubbles below the pupil—much like vertical blinds on a window. Llamas can then focus and accept light through two openings on either end of their pupils, while the center of their pupils is completely shaded to cut out glare and bright light.
Here’s what llama sunglasses look like magnified. Some liken the shape to a skeleton key, while others say they look like the edges of “Ruffles with Ridges” potato chips.
Just in case you’re planning on staring into the eyes of the next llama you meet, please know that you can’t see iridic granules in dark-eyed llamas—and most llamas have dark eyes. Actually, llama eye colors range from black to brown to amber to orange to gray, and finally to blue. It is the blue-eyed llama that offers the best viewing of iridic granules. Gaze into the gorgeous blue eyes of ShangriLlama’s own Dalai Llama, below.
Dalai Llama’s two blue eyes are quite rare, because blue eyes are considered a flaw in llama shows. Think of dog shows, cat shows and horse shows, which require specific characteristics to determine grand champions. In the llama world, blue eyes automatically disqualify llamas from the show ring. That’s because blue eyes with white coats are markers of the deaf gene. Have you ever heard of blue-eyed, white-coated cats? They’re often deaf. And so it is with llamas, which is the reason blue eyes are discouraged. Dalai Llama is not deaf, however, so he serves as our “demo llama.” He’s very good- natured about our Llama Walk customers staring into his eyes to spy his iridic granules.
You may be wondering if llamas are the only ones in the animal kingdom with built-in sunglasses. Actually, they are not. Horses, cattle, sheep, goats and alpacas have these built-in sunglasses, too. But llamas and their cousin the alpaca have the darkest sunglasses, with six iridic granules above their iris and six below. Cattle, sheep and goats have fewer granules, while horses only have the granules above the pupil. This makes the gentle llama and his cousin the most sun-sensitive of the grazing animals. Maybe that’s why, when you look into a llama’s big eyes, you see a truly soft, friendly gaze!
If your local zoo doesn’t have a blue-eyed llama, then please consider visiting ShangriLlama to meet the Dalai Llama. You might not ever meet a more expressive llama. Truly, his big blue eyes are mesmerizing!
Happy Trails from Mama Llama!