The form and function of the masticatory apparatus of the fossil genera Vassallia and Holmesina are analyzed so that the possible dietary behaviors of these pampathere xenarthrans might be inferred. Analysis is based on comparisons of dental morphology and skeletal features (through RFTRA) associated with the masticatory musculature among the pampatheres, the extant dasypodids Euphractus and Dasypus, and the glyptodont Propalaeohoplophorus. A method is proposed for generating a moment arm of the massetericus independently of the muscle's line of action, which allows direct comparison among extant and fossil mammals. The masticatory apparatus of the pampatheres strongly resembles that of Euphractus among extant forms, but the development of muscular attachment sites indicates a more powerful musculature, particularly the massetericus; the taxa differ most markedly in dental morphology. Long moment arms about the jaw joint and large ratios of muscle to bite moments indicate forceful rather than quick movements. The various skeletal and dental features analyzed suggest that the masticatory apparatus of the pampatheres was more powerful and efficient in transverse chewing than in dasypodids and that they were primarily grazers consuming mainly coarse vegetation. These features, some shared with herbivorous ungulates, include wide, relatively flat mandibular condyles; condyles well dorsal to muscular insertion sites; expanded angular processes; unfused symphysis; a posteriorly extended tooth row; open-rooted teeth; mesial teeth that bear mainly transverse striations; distal teeth that are mesiodistally elongated, bear basined occlusal surfaces, and in Vassallia possess a central island of resistant dentine that acted as a functional analogue of an ectoloph; and teeth with a stepwise arrangement. The results of this study indicate that detailed analysis and comparison of morphology lead to useful predictions of behavior.
The diet of maned sloths was studied throughout 14 months in an Atlantic forest reserve of south-eastern Brazil. Three adult sloths were observed for a total of 680 h and located monthly by radio-telemetry. Data were collected on diet, recording the actual time the sloths spent eating plant species. Overall, the diet was composed of 99% leaves, with young leaves (68%) preferred to mature ones (7%) throughout the year. A higher proportion of tree leaves (83%) than liana leaves (16%) were included in the diet. When analysed together, the diet of the three animals included a total of 21 plant species (16 tree and 5 liana), but each individual made up its diet with an even smaller number of species (7-12) and with a particular subset of the local flora. This is a very small portion of the total number of tree and liana species available to the sloths; furthermore, the top species consumed were present at very low population densities in the forest. Thus, B. torquatus, like other congeneric species studied elsewhere in the Neotropics, is a strictly arboreal folivore with a highly selective diet, probably resulting from evolving physiological adaptations to cope with a smaller range of plant secondary compounds. This is possible for the species of this genus through a combination of low basal rates of metabolism, which enable the sloths to survive on an energy-poor diet, and a very long passage time of digesta, which, in turn, aids the digestion of a fibre-rich diet while possibly contributing to the degradation of secondary compounds.
A cladistic investigation of the phylogenetic relationships among the three extant anteater genera and the three undoubted extinct myrmecophagid genera is performed based upon osteological characteristics of the skull and postcranial skeleton. One hundred seven discrete morphological characters are analyzed using the computer program PAUP. Characters are polarized via comparison to the successive xenarthran outgroups Tardigrada (represented by the living sloth Bradypus) and Cingulata (represented by the recent armadillos Dasypus and Euphractus). The analysis results in a single most-parsimonious tree (TL = 190, CI = 0.699, RI = 0.713). The tree corroborates the monophyly of the subfamilies Cyclopinae and Myrmecophaginae, the former including the extant Cyclopes and the Pliocene genus Palaeomyrmidon. Within the Myrmecophaginae the Miocene genus Protamandua is the sister taxon to a clade including the remaining three genera. The recent Tamandua is in turn the sister taxon to the extant Myrmecophaga plus the Pliocene genus Neotamandua. Contrary to the suggestions of recent authors, weak support is provided for the taxonomic distinctiveness of the latter genus from the recent Myrmecophaga. The monophyly of the Myrmecophagidae is supported by 15 unequivocal synapomorphies. The monophyly of the Cyclopinae and Myrmecophaginae is supported by 3 and 13 unambiguous synapomorphies, respectively. The enigmatic Eocene genus Eurotamandua, from the Messel fauna of Germany, is coded for the 107 morphological characters above and included in two subsequent PAUP analyses. The palaeanodont Metacheiromys is also added to these two analyses as a nonxenarthran outgroup to test for the possibility that Eurotamandua lies outside the Xenarthra. In the first analysis, Eurotamandua is constrained a priori to membership in the Vermilingua. The single most-parsimonious tree (TL = 224, CI = 0.618) that results places Eurotamandua as the sister group to the remaining anteater genera, contra Storch and Habersetzer's (1991) assignment of Eurotamandua to the vermilinguan subfamily Myrmecophaginae. Eurotamandua shares six unequivocal synapomorphies with other anteaters, including the absence of teeth and the presence of a lateral tuberosity on the fifth metatarsal. The remaining vermilinguans are united by 11 unequivocal synapomorphies, plus an additional 10 ambiguous synapomorphies. In the second analysis, the position of Eurotamandua is unconstrained. The resulting single most-parsimonious tree (TL = 219, CI = 0.632) places Eurotamandua outside Vermilingua as the sister group to the Pilosa (Vermilingua plus Bradypus). The monophyly of this node is supported by four unambiguous synapomorphies in the unconstrained analysis. Further manipulation of this second analysis shows that placement of Eurotamandua as the sister group to the Xenarthra or to the Palaeanodonta adds three steps to the shortest tree but is more parsimonious than its placement as a sister group to the Vermilingua is the previous analysis. The addition of pangolins to the analysis does little to alter the major phylogenetic conclusions of the study. The allocation of Eurotamandua to the Xenarthra, but as a sister group to the Pilosa, is a novel arrangement which leaves open the biogeographic question of how a xenarthran reached Western Europe during the Eocene.
A solution to higher level mammalian phylogeny is going to depend on the congruent establishment of superordinal groupings followed by a linking together of these clades. We present congruent and convincing evidence from four disparate nuclear protein coding genes and from a tandem alignment of the 12S-16S mitochondrial region, for a superordinal clade of endemic African mammals that includes elephant shrews, aardvarks, golden mole, elephants, sirenians, and hyraxes. Because of strong support for golden mole as part of this clade, the Insectivora are rendered paraphyletic or polyphyletic, with constrained monophyly of the insectivores judged significantly worse in the vast majority of tests. Branching arrangement within this clade remains highly uncertain; however, a tandem alignment of the protein coding genes suggests elephant shrew is the earliest African lineage. None of the individual data sets or combinations of data sets support the widely held view of a mirorder Tethytheria (Sirenia/Proboscidea), although only a tandem alignment of protein coding and mitochondrial loci significantly rejects this association. The majority of the data sets and analyses provide strong support for Caviomorpha as part of a monophyletic Rodentia. (C) 1998 Academic Press.
Oestrogen and progestagen metabolites were measured in the faeces of five female giant anteaters (Myrmecophaga tridactyla), to characterise the oestrous cycle and pregnancy. Faecal samples were collected twice weekly for a minimum of 6 months, and immunoreactive progestagens and oestrogens were analysed using enyzme immunoassays (EIA). For progestagens, two antibodies that cross-reacted with 20α-hydroxy- or 20-oxo-progestagens were used. Both assays effectively monitored ovarian cyclicity; however, the concentrations obtained using the antibody for 20α-hydroxy-progestagens were higher, and the hormonal changes were more pronounced. Regular ovarian cycles were identified in three of the five females. Average (± SEM) length of the oestrous cycle (n = 10) was 51.4 ± 5.6 days. Peak concentrations of 20α-hydroxy-progestagens ranged from 80-660 ng/g of faeces and those of oestrogens from 20-100 ng/g. Hormone concentrations were measured during parts of two pregnancies and during four post-partum periods. The length of one gestation (from oestrous oestrogen peak until parturition) was 184 days. In the second half of gestation, progestagen concentration started to increase above luteal phase values; in the week before parturition it was ~ 20 times higher than those during the luteal phase. Concentrations of excreted oestrogens began to increase after two thirds of gestation and exceeded that of the follicular phase by ~ 2.5-fold in the week before parturition. Onset of ovarian cyclicity after parturition varied from 4-11 weeks. In conclusion, the measurement of faecal immunoreactive progestagens and oestrogens in the giant anteater indicated an ovarian cycle of ~ 7 weeks in length and provided potentially useful data for successful breeding management.
The sense of olfaction in armadillos plays an important role, suggested by the great development of the nasal structures, olfactory bulbs, and related brain regions. The mammalian olfactory mucosa is a privileged site of neuronal death and regeneration during the whole Life span. A detailed knowledge of its ultrastructure is convenient for gaining insight into the factors controlling those phenomena. We performed this work in species not previously studied in order to provide a firm basis for further research on those factors. No information is available on the histology and ultrastructure of the olfactory mucosa in the order Xenarthra to which armadillos belong. Samples from the endoturbinals of the armadillo Chaetophractus villosus were prepared for Light and electron microscopic examination by the usual conventional means. The olfactory epithelium of Chaetophractus villosus shows the classical three types of cells: supporting cells, olfactory receptor neurons, and basal cells. The olfactory neurons and the basal cells were similar to that described in other species. Two different types of supporting cells are described. An outstanding characteristic of the supporting cells is the normal presence of abundant phagosomes, apical secretory granules, apocrine-like protrusions, and highly developed smooth endoplasmic reticulum. Apoptotic bodies are frequently found in the infranuclear cytoplasm of supporting cells. The ductular epithelium of Bowman's glands reveals secretory activity. The lamina propria shows mixed Bowman's glands. Great development of smooth endoplasmic reticulum is observed in the mucous acinar cells. Evidence for merocrine and apocrine mechanisms in the Bowman's glands is presented. The presence of apoptotic bodies and phagosomes in supporting cells suggests a participation in the cellular events induced by cell death and proliferation of the olfactory epithelium. The variety of characteristics exhibited by the supporting cells of the olfactory mucosa may contribute to a deeper understanding of their scarcely known functions. Anat. Rec. 252: 325-339, 1998. (C) 1998 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
Until a few decades ago, phylogenetic relationships among placental orders were ambiguous and usually depicted to radiate as an unresolved "bush." Resolution of this bush by various workers has been progressing slowly, but with promising results corroborated by nondental, dental, and molecular characters. In this study we continue to seek resolution. A total of 258 nondental and 2 dental characters was analyzed by PAUP and MacClade on 39 vertebrate taxa (3 reptiles, 1 nonmammalian therapsid, and 35 mammals; 20 of the mammals are extant and 15 are extinct) to study higher taxonomic relationships with emphasis on Placentalia (Eutheria). About two-thirds of the characters are osteological, the rest concern soft tissues, including myological but excluding molecular characters (most are our data, the rest are from the literature). Cladistic analysis included all 39 taxa (fossil taxa help to evaluate polarities of characters) and all characters were given equal weight. Extant Mammalia are divided into Prototheria and Theria, the latter into Marsupialia and Placentalia. Placentalia comprises Xenarthra and Epitheria. Within Epitheria, Lipotyphla and Preptotheria (emended) are sister-taxa. Preptotherian taxa group into: ungulate-related taxa and various nonungulates. The former include Carnivora, Pholidota, Tubulidentata, Artiodactyla, Cetacea, Perissodactyla, Hyracoidea, Proboscidea, and Sirenia. A possible association to embrace Lagomorpha, Rodentia, Macroscelidea, Scandentia, Primates, Chiroptera, and Dermoptera is suggested. Significant differences between our findings and those of recent investigators include the dissociation of Pholidota from Xenarthra and the plesiomorphous position of Lipotyphla within Epitheria. Congruence between morphological and molecular results is closer than previously reported. (C) 1998 Academic Press.