The phylogenetic positions of the 4 clades, Euarchontoglires, Laurasiatheria, Afrotheria, and Xenarthra, have been major issues in the recent discussion of basal relationships among placental mammals. However, despite considerable efforts these relationships, crucial to the understanding of eutherian evolution and biogeography, have remained essentially unresolved. Euarchontoglires and Laurasiatheria are generally joined into a common clade (Boreoeutheria), whereas the position of Afrotheria and Xenarthra relative to Boreoeutheria has been equivocal in spite of the use of comprehensive amounts of nuclear encoded sequences or the application of genome-level characters such as retroposons. The probable reason for this uncertainty is that the divergences took place long time ago and within a narrow temporal window, leaving only short common branches. With the aim of further examining basal eutherian relationships, we have collected conserved protein-coding sequences from 11 placental mammals, a marsupial and a bird, whose nuclear genomes have been largely sequenced. The length of the alignment of homologous sequences representing each individual species is 2,168,859 nt. This number of sites, representing 2840 protein-coding genes, exceeds by a considerable margin that of any previous study. The phylogenetic analysis joined Xenarthra and Afrotheria on a common branch, Atlantogenata. This topology was found to fit the data significantly better than the alternative trees.
Background: Extant sloths present an evolutionary conundrum in that the two living genera are superficially similar (small-bodied, folivorous, arboreal) but diverged from one another approximately 30 million years ago and are phylogenetically separated by a radiation of medium to massive, mainly ground-dwelling, taxa. Indeed, the species in the two living genera are among the smallest, and perhaps most unusual, of the 50+ known sloth species, and must have independently and convergently evolved small size and arboreality. In order to accurately reconstruct sloth evolution, it is critical to incorporate their extinct diversity in analyses. Here, we used a dataset of 57 species of living and fossil sloths to examine changes in body mass mean and variance through their evolution, employing a general time-variable model that allows for analysis of evolutionary trends in continuous characters within clades lacking fully-resolved phylogenies, such as sloths. Results: Our analyses supported eight models, all of which partition sloths into multiple subgroups, suggesting distinct modes of body size evolution among the major sloth lineages. Model-averaged parameter values supported trended walks in most clades, with estimated rates of body mass change ranging as high as 126 kg/million years for the giant ground sloth clades Megatheriidae and Nothrotheriidae. Inclusion of living sloth species in the analyses weakened reconstructed rates for their respective groups, with estimated rates for Megalonychidae (large to giant ground sloths and the extant two-toed sloth) were four times higher when the extant genus Choloepus was excluded. Conclusions: Analyses based on extant taxa alone have the potential to oversimplify or misidentify macroevolutionary patterns. This study demonstrates the impact that integration of data from the fossil record can have on reconstructions of character evolution and establishes that body size evolution in sloths was complex, but dominated by trended walks towards the enormous sizes exhibited in some recently extinct forms.
The Magnaorder Xenarthra is one of the four main supraordinal eutherian clades, together with Afrotheria, Euarchontoglires and Laurasiatheria. Xenarthra is an eminently Central and South American group of special interest in phylogenetic studies due to its possible position at the base of the eutherian tree. The use of modern cytogenetic techniques in some species of Xenarthra has provided important insights into the karyotypic evolution of mammals. Nevertheless, chromosome analyses in the group are still restricted, with only a few individuals of each species studied and karyotype descriptions mostly without banding patterns. In addition, it is likely that still unknown species exist and that the chromosome variability in the group is underestimated. We present a review of the currently available data on Xenarthra chromosomes and genomes and on the impact that their study has had in the understanding of mammalian genome evolution. It is clear that further cytogenetic analyses in Xenarthra, including banding patterns and molecular approaches, are likely to help in the identification of new species, reveal still undetected chromosome variations, provide information to support conservation strategies planning, and greatly contribute to a better understanding of mammalian genome evolution.
Xenarthra (armadillos, sloths, and anteaters) constitutes one of the four major clades of placental mammals. Despite their phylogenetic distinctiveness in mammals, a reference phylogeny is still lacking for the 31 described species. Here we used Illumina shotgun sequencing to assemble 33 new complete mitochondrial genomes, establishing Xenarthra as the first major placental clade to be fully sequenced at the species level for mitogenomes. The resulting data set allowed the reconstruction of a robust phylogenetic framework and timescale that are consistent with previous studies conducted at the genus level using nuclear genes. Incorporating the full species diversity of extant xenarthrans points to a number of inconsistencies in xenarthran systematics and species definition. We propose to split armadillos into two distinct families Dasypodidae (dasypodines) and Chlamyphoridae (euphractines, chlamyphorines, and tolypeutines) to better reflect their ancient divergence, estimated around 42 Ma. Species delimitation within long-nosed armadillos (genus Dasypus) appeared more complex than anticipated, with the discovery of a divergent lineage in French Guiana. Diversification analyses showed Xenarthra to be an ancient clade with a constant diversification rate through time with a species turnover driven by high but constant extinction. We also detected a significant negative correlation between speciation rate and past temperature fluctuations with an increase in speciation rate corresponding to the general cooling observed during the last 15 My. Biogeographic reconstructions identified the tropical rainforest biome of Amazonia and the Guiana Shield as the cradle of xenarthran evolutionary history with subsequent dispersions into more open and dry habitats.
Molecular studies have led recently to the proposal of a new super-ordinal arrangement of the 18 extant Eutherian orders. From the four proposed super-orders, Afrotheria and Xenarthra were considered the most basal. Chromosome-painting studies with human probes in these two mammalian groups are thus key in the quest to establish the ancestral Eutherian karyotype. Although a reasonable amount of chromosome-painting data with human probes have already been obtained for Afrotheria, no Xenarthra species has been thoroughly analyzed with this approach. We hybridized human chromosome probes to metaphases of species (Dasypus novemcinctus, Tamandua tetradactyla, and Choloepus hoffmanii) representing three of the four Xenarthra families. Our data allowed us to review the current hypotheses for the ancestral Eutherian karyotype, which range from 2n = 44 to 2n = 48. One of the species studied, the two-toed sloth C. hoffmanii (2n = 50), showed a chromosome complement strikingly similar to the proposed 2n = 48 ancestral Eutherian karyotype, strongly reinforcing it.
Background: Xenarthra (sloths, armadillos and anteaters) represent one of four currently recognized Eutherian mammal supraorders. Some phylogenomic studies point to the possibility of Xenarthra being at the base of the Eutherian tree, together or not with the supraorder Afrotheria. We performed painting with human autosomes and X-chromosome specific probes on metaphases of two three-toed sloths: Bradypus torquatus and B. variegatus. These species represent the fourth of the five extant Xenarthra families to be studied with this approach. Results: Eleven human chromosomes were conserved as one block in both B. torquatus and B. variegatus: (HSA 5, 6, 9, 11, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 20, 21 and the X chromosome). B. torquatus, three additional human chromosomes were conserved intact (HSA 1, 3 and 4). The remaining human chromosomes were represented by two or three segments on each sloth. Seven associations between human chromosomes were detected in the karyotypes of both B. torquatus and B. variegatus: HSA 3/21, 4/8, 7/10, 7/16, 12/22, 14/15 and 17/19. The ancestral Eutherian association 16/19 was not detected in the Bradypus species. Conclusions: Our results together with previous reports enabled us to propose a hypothetical ancestral Xenarthran karyotype with 48 chromosomes that would differ from the proposed ancestral Eutherian karyotype by the presence of the association HSA 7/10 and by the split of HSA 8 into three blocks, instead of the two found in the Eutherian ancestor. These same chromosome features point to the monophyly of Xenarthra, making this the second supraorder of placental mammals to have a chromosome signature supporting its monophyly.
We report a phylogeographic study of populations in Argentina. Control Region (CR) sequences (484 bp) were obtained for 76 from 20 locations across the species whole distribution range. Seventeen new haplotypes were identified. The highest genetic variation and the earliest fossils were found in the Pampean Region, thus appearing as the most probable area of origin of the species. A general pattern of Contiguous Range Expansion (CRE) was revealed by Nested Clade Analysis (NCA) supported by mismatch analysis and Fu’s test. The Pampean Region would have been the pre-expansion area, while Patagonia would have been the main dispersal route of contiguous expansion, possibly after the Pleistocenic glaciations.
Topical literature and Web site databases provide genome sizes for similar to 4,000 animal species, invertebrates and vertebrates, 330 of which are mammals. We provide the genome size for 67 mammalian species, including 51 never reported before. Knowledge of genome size facilitates sequencing projects. The data presented here encompassed 5 Metatheria (order Didelphimorphia) and 62 Eutheria: 15 Xenarthra, 24 Euarchontoglires (Rodentia), as well as 23 Laurasiatheria (22 Chiroptera and 1 species from Perissodactyla). Already available karyotypes supplement the haploid nuclear DNA contents of the respective species. Thus, we established the first comprehensive set of genome size measurements for 15 Xenarthra species (armadillos) and for 12 house-mouse species; each group was previously represented by only one species. The Xenarthra exhibited much larger genomes than the modal 3 pg DNA known for mammals. Within the genus Mus, genome sizes varied between 2.98 pg and 3.68 pg. The 22 bat species we measured support the low 2.63 pg modal value for Chiroptera. In general, the genomes of Euarchontoglires and Laurasiatheria were found being smaller than those of (Afrotheria and) Xenarthra. Interspecific variation in genome sizes is discussed with particular attention to repetitive elements, which probably promoted the adaptation of extant mammals to their environment.
Long interspersed nuclear elements (LINEs) comprise about 21% of the human genome (of which L1 is most abundant) and are preferentially accumulated in AT-rich regions, as well as the X and Y chromosomes. Most knowledge of L1 distribution in mammals is restricted to human and mouse. Here we report the first investigation of L1 distribution in the genomes of a wide variety of eutherian mammals, including species in the two basal clades, Afrotheria and Xenarthra. Our results show L1 accumulation on the X of all eutherian mammals, an observation consistent with an ancestral involvement of these elements in the X-inactivation process (the Lyon repeat hypothesis). Surprisingly, conspicuous accumulation of L1 in AT-rich regions of the genome was not observed in any species outside of Euarchontoglires (represented by human, mouse and rabbit). Although several features were common to most species investigated, our comprehensive survey shows that the patterns observed in human and mouse are, in many aspects, far from typical for all mammals. We discuss these findings with reference to models that have previously been proposed to explain the AT distribution bias of L1 in human and mouse, and how this relates to the evolution of these elements in other eutherian genomes.