I was browsing llama memes the other day recently and ran across an interesting discussion on Reddit.
It started with a photo of a funny-looking close-up of a llama’s eye. Here’s the photo.
Many were shocked, some were even disgusted with how the pupils looked. Others wanted to know why their eyes looked so bizarre.
Different people gave different answers; one of the best ones was: predators get so lost in their insane eyes that they end up just having an amazing conversation instead of eating them.
Couldn’t agree more.
On a serious note, the truth is that shape of a llama’s pupils depends on its lifestyle.
Why Are Llama Eyes So Weird?
Llamas originated at the Andeans mountains where there’s a lot of light and not much shade to hide under. They also LOVE to lay in the sun, but their eyes are very light-sensitive.
To carry on with such a sun-rich lifestyle, their eyes had to adapt.
That’s why llamas developed several vertically folded structures in their eyes; to protect them from the excessive brightness of the sun.
Llama’s eyes look so weird up close because of the oval shape of their pupils and the iridic granules in their eyes. These are also known as corpora nigra and they shade the pupil and decrease the amount of light that enters the eye and reaches the retina.
These structures look rather unusual and are similar to the corpora nigra of horses. Compared to horses, llamas have a lot larger and more folded structures in their eyes. Horses have round ones.
In a way, these “sunglasses” acts as an efficient mini visor for the eye.
A llama’s pupil is horizontally oval and accentuated by the corpora nigra located on the front and back borders of the iris. This adds to the overall uncanny look of the eye.
Such eye structure allows a llama to close its “frills” and reduce the amount of light that enters the eye during a sunny day.
You can see iridic granule when looking in the llama’s eye.
Do note that it is easier to see these folds during the day than during the night, especially in llamas with a light color of their eyes.
Why Do Llamas Have Iridic Granules In Their Eyes?
These strange-looking structures prevent eye damage to the llama’s eyes. This means that llamas do not need to squint to see what’s happening around them – this is very useful when on the lookout for predators.
Llamas are not the only animals that have iridic granules in their eyes. Horses, alpacas, camels, goats, donkeys, buffalos also have corpora nigra in their eyes. However, they are not as developed as those in llamas and alpacas. Horses only have developed top granules.
Read more: How well do llamas and horses get along?
The llama’s iridic granules are amazing and beautiful to look at because they might intertwine (interdigitate) to cover the center of the pupil when it contracts.
When they interlock, there are just two holes open on either end of the pupil – this reduces the amount of light that can enter the eye.
What makes llama’s face unique are its long eyelashes, prominent corpora nigra, different pigmentation of the iris, and a soft friendly gaze.
This concludes our article examining the question “why are llama eyes so weird”.
Llamas have unique and strange-looking “ruffles” in their eyes to prevent excessive sunlight exposure to their eyes. These wrinkled structures are called iridic granules (corpora nigra) and are present in alpacas, camels, horses, donkeys, goats, and many other animals.
 Gionfriddo, Juliet R. “Ophthalmology of South American camelids.” Veterinary Clinics: Food Animal Practice 26.3 (2010): 531-555.