Abstract The masticatory apparatus of Pampatherium typum, P. humboldtii, and Holmesina paulacoutoi are analysed based on skull, mandibular and dental morphology and the inferred masticatory musculature. Comparison of the apparatus with those of other pampatheres suggests a trend toward increasing ability to process resistant vegetation from Holmesina through Pampatherium. The mechanical design of the apparatus among these pampatheres is nearly identical and has apparently undergone only minor variation since pampatheres first appear in the fossil record, suggesting strong phylogenetic constraint in the form of skeletal and dental elements. Main differences among taxa occur in features associated with the musculature, and thus the primary means for differentiation in masticatory function, which is correlated with diet, were changes resulting in differential force imput. Although the taxonomic status of some specimens is equivocal, indications are that the Plio-Pleistocene paleobiogeographic distribution of...
Xenarthra (Edentata) is an extremely diverse mammalian order whose modern representatives are the armadillos, anteaters, and sloths. The phylogeny of these groups is poorly resolved. This is particularly true for the sloths (phyllophagans), originally a large and diverse group now reduced to two genera in two different families. Both morphological analyses and molecular analyses of rDNA genes of living and extinct sloths have been used with limited success to elucidate their phylogeny. In an attempt to clarify relationships among the sloths, DNA was extracted and mitochondrial cytochrome b gene sequences were determined from representatives of two extinct groups of sloths (Mylodontidae and Megatheriidae), their two living relatives (two-toed sloths [Megalonychidae], three-toed sloths [Bradypodidae]), anteaters and armadillos. A consistent feature of the latter two species was the nuclear copies of cytochrome b gene sequences. Several methods of phylogenetic reconstruction were applied to the sequences determined, and the results were compared with 12S rDNA sequences obtained in previous studies. The cytochrome b gene exhibited a phylogenetic resolving power similar to that of the 12S rDNA sequences. When both data sets were combined, they tended to support the grouping of two-toed sloths with mylodontids and three-toed sloths with megatheriids. The results strengthen the view that the two families of living sloths adapted independently to an arboreal life-style. Copyright 2000 Academic Press.
Structures discovered near Mar del Plata are attributed to palaeoburrows built by fossil animals on the basis of morphological patterns, transgressive boundaries in relation to the sedimentary units, and the presence of claw marks on the walls and roofs. They are discrete features of several metres in length, and with subrounded cross sections. Their diameters range from 0.80 to 1.80 m, with the width generally exceeding the height. These structures occur in Pleistocene deposits containing mammals referable to the Ensenadan and Lujanian Ages. Several Xenarthra are good candidates as builders of these burrows. Palaeoburrows were attributed before to the large Pleistocene armadillos Propraopus. Eutarus, and Pampatherium. We consider the possibility that the mylodontid ground sloths were responsible for excavating the burrows. The similar diameters of the burrows and the sloths are consistent with this observation. Anatomical, allometric, and biomechanical analysis of sloths limbs indicates that they were well designed to perform such activity. The shape of some claw marks preserved on the sides and roof of the burrows fits the form of their hand skeleton. Thus, the mylodontid sloths Scelidotherium and Glossotherium are considered as possible builders for the large late Cenozoic burrows present in the Pampean region.
The masticatory apparatus of Pampatherium typum, P. humboldtii, and Holmesina paulacoutoi are analysed based on skull, mandibular and dental morphology and the inferred masticatory musculature. Comparison of the apparatus with those of other pampatheres suggests a trend toward increasing ability to process resistant vegetation from Holmesina through Pampatherium. The mechanical design of the apparatus among these pampatheres is nearly identical and has apparently undergone only minor variation since pampatheres first appear in the fossil record, suggesting strong phylogenetic constraint in the form of skeletal and dental elements. Main differences among taxa occur in features associated with the musculature, and thus the primary means for differentiation in masticatory function, which is correlated with diet, were changes resulting in differential force imput. Although the taxonomic status of some specimens is equivocal, indications are that the Plio-Pleistocene paleobiogeographic distribution of pampatheres is correlated with masticatory function (and hence diet), with P. typum, the species best adapted for grinding coarse vegetation, occurring in the more arid Pampean regions of South America. H. occidentalis, although a capable grinder, was the least suited to coarse vegetation. It is known from deposits near the current Peru-Ecuador border, an area of humid lowlands during glacial maxima. H. paulacoutoi and P. humboldtii lie between these extremes, with the latter better adapted for abrasive vegetation. These pampatheres have been found at the same localities, mainly through Brazil, which was characterized by wetter conditions than the Pampas. Their presence together suggests either sympatry or occupation of the same region during different times, with their ranges moving either north (P. humboldtii) or south (H. paulacoutoi) in a transition zone that may have shifted in response to changes in glacial maxima and minima.
Recent analyses of nucleotide sequence data suggest that living placental mammals belong to one of four superorders. The early divergence of these groups was followed by long periods of geographical isolation, due to the break up of continental land masses, allowing for convergent evolution of similar traits in different superorders. As an example, the transition from epitheliochorial to haemochorial placentation occurred independently in bats, rodents, anthropoid primates, armadillos and others. A group of ancient African mammals is suggested by the molecular data, but is not fully supported by morphological evidence. The hypothesis is, however, consistent with some of the data on fetal membranes, suggesting that it would be worthwhile to study the early development of tenrecs, golden moles and elephant shrews. Analyses of fetal membrane traits that group the tarsiers with anthropoid primates, and separate them from the lemurs, are challenged by the molecular data. Other relatives of the primates seem to include tree shrews and flying lemurs, and little is known about the fetal membranes of the latter group. Comparative studies of placental function normally are confined to primates, rodents, lagomorphs and domestic animals: the biological diversity represented by mammals that evolved in ancient Africa and South America is not represented. Therefore, future comparative studies should strive to include species such as the rock hyrax and the armadillo. (C) 2001 Harcourt Publishers Ltd.
Megatherium americanum (late Pleistocene of South America) has traditionally been regarded a herbivore, but its dietary habits have not been considered in terms of a morphofunctional analysis. This study describes and analyses the morphology of the masticatory apparatus in order to interpret the jaw mechanics of M. americanum, and thus to infer its diet and behaviour. The results are compared with those for the mylodontid Glossotherium rebustum and the extant sloth Bradypus variegatus. The areas of origin and insertion of the masticatory musculature were reconstructed, and the moment arms generated by this musculature were estimated so that the mechanics of the feeding apparatus might be described. These analyses indicate that M. americanum was well adapted for strong and mainly vertical biting. The teeth are extremely hypsodont and bilophodont, and the sagittal section of each loph is triangular with a sharp edge. This suggests that the teeth were used mainly for cutting, rather than grinding, and that hard and fibrous food was not the main dietary component. The diet of M. americanum merits more rigorous analysis, but the evidence provided here indicates that it probably had a browsing diet in open habitats, but also could have fed on moderate to soft tough food.
In this paper, the highly peculiar masticatory apparatus of glyptodonts is studied. The general morphology of the skull is analysed using a morphometric procedure, the Resistant Fit Theta Rho Analysis, which allows comparison among different biological forms. Here, a large terminal form, the late Pleistocene genus Glyptodon. is compared with the smaller primitive Miocene genus Propalaehoplophorus and with the generalised Recent armadillo Chaetophractus. The masticatory musculature of glyptodonts is reconstructed. Their tooth form and wear facets, as well as their mandibular symphysis and jaw joint. are analysed. A model of jaw movement is constructed based on these analyses. It is demonstrated that the masticatory apparatus of glyptodonts had undergone a telescoping process, which was already underway in the most ancient forms whose skull is known. This process created problems in regard to the way stresses produced by mastication were absorbed by the mandible, and therefore it might be regarded as non-adaptive. Some functional explanatory hypotheses are discussed, such as a requirement of keeping the moment of the weight of the cranium small enough to be counterbalanced by the neck muscles, or fitting the head into the armour.
This is a review of the research undertaken since 1971 on the behavior and physiological ecology of sloths. The animals exhibit numerous fascinating features. Sloth hair is extremely specialized for a wet tropical environment and contains symbiotic algae. Activity shows circadian and seasonal variation. Nutrients derived from the food, particularly in Bradypus, only barely match the requirements for energy expenditure. Sloths are hosts to a fascinating array of commensal and parasitic arthropods and are carriers of various arthropod-borne viruses. Sloths are known reservoirs of the flagellate protozoan which causes leishmaniasis in humans, and may also carry trypanosomes and the protozoan Pneumocystis carinii.