As much of the world turns its attention to Brazil for World Cup 2014, we’re looking at the iconic wildlife of the teams facing off. Our Round 1 match-up pits Chile’s guanaco, a favorite species observed on our Patagonia tours, against Australia’s iconic kangaroo.
Described by Charles Darwin as “an elegant animal, with a long, slender neck and fine legs,” the guanaco is the largest wild member of the camelid family in South America. Four subspecies of guanaco have been described in the past, based on differences in skull measurements, coat coloration and body size. However, genetic studies recognize only two subspecies, Lama guanicoe guanicoe and the more northerly Lama guanicoe cacsilensis.
Did You Know?
Several native groups of Andes and southern region of South America used to consider guanacos as a chief source of protein.
A guanaco spits when it gets angry or hurt.
A guanaco has llamas and alpacas as its domestic descendants and is closely related to camels and vicunas.
Guanaco has a specially acclimatized heart and blood cells which help it fight with the atmosphere at high altitude where air does not have sufficient amount of oxygen.
A teaspoon blood of a guanaco contains nearly 68 million red blood cells, which is four times the number of red blood cells present in human blood.
Guanacos have eyes on the sides of their heads that allow them to look all around for threats.
An iconic symbol of the Australian outback, the red kangaroo is the largest living marsupial, and one of the most abundant and striking of all kangaroos. And while many recognize the red kangaroo, grey kangaroos are actually the most commonly seen species when you’re in-country.
Where the Kangaroos Roam
Red Kangaroos are adapted to the big open plains covering the dry interior.
Eastern and Western Grey Kangaroos prefer moister forests and scrublands of eastern, southern and south western Australia, but their habitat also overlaps with the Red Kangaroos.
Common Wallaroos can be found throughout inland Australia. Their preferred habitat is stone country and rocky outcrops.
Rock wallabies are more extreme. They live in piles of boulders, on rocky hills and even in cliff faces.
Tree kangaroos are adapted to living in trees (sort of, they are still clumsy). They live in the rainforests of northern Queensland (and further north in Papua New Guinea).
Who do you think wins? Leave your vote for favorite "team" in the comments below!