Northwestern Argentina contains one of the most complete continental late Neogene (ca. 9–2.58 Ma) fossiliferous sequences in South America, especially in the current territories of the Catamarca, Tucumán and Jujuy provinces. More precisely in Jujuy Province several localities bearing mainly fossil mammals have been reported at the Quebrada de Humahuaca in the Uquía, Maimará and Tilcara formations, in which the clade Xenarthra (Mammalia) is well-represented. In this scenario, the fossiliferous potential of other localities of Jujuy Province are less known, especially in those areas located at the northwest end of Argentina, bordering Bolivia in the Northern Puna. A new late Neogene fossiliferous locality near Calahoyo (3639 m.a.s.l), Jujuy Province, is here reported. The materials, belonging to Xenarthra, were exhumed from the base of the Tafna Formation which was deposited in a sedimentary basin by alluvial and/or fluvial currents, undergoing transitions of various lacustrine episodes. The taxa include the Tardigrada (Megatheriidae) and the Cingulata sp. (Glyptodontidae) and (Dasypodidae). From a biostratigraphic viewpoint, this assemblage suggests a Late Miocene-Pliocene age for the base of the Tafna Formation, and partially contradicts the supposed Plio-Pleistocene age of this unit. Finally, the new specimens here described indicate that Xenarthra were taxonomically and ecologically diverse during the late Neogene in the northwest end of Argentina, since they are represented by at least three main lineages (sloths, glyptodontids and armadillos).
In Argentina, Chaetophractus villosus has a wide distribution that overlaps with agricultural areas where soybean is the predominant crop. In such areas the pesticide Roundup Full II (R) (RU) is widely applied. The genotoxic effect of its active ingredient glyphosate (RU is 66.2% glyphosate) on the peripheral blood lymphocytes of C. villosus was tested over a range of concentrations (280, 420, 560, 1120 mu mol/L). Culture medium without glyphosate served as negative control, while medium containing mitomycin C served as positive control. Genetic damage was characterized in terms of the percentage of cells with chromosome aberrations (CA), the mean number of sister chromatid exchanges (SCE) per cell, and the modification of cell proliferation kinetics via the calculation of the replication index. Significant increases (p < 0.0001) were seen in the CA frequency and the mean number of SCEs per cell compared to negative controls at all the RU concentrations tested. Chromatid breaks, the only form of CA observed, under the 560 mu mol/L RU conditions and in presence of mitomycin C were four to five times more common than at lower concentrations, while no viable cells were seen in the 1120 mu mol/L treatment. The mean number of SCEs per cell was significantly higher under the 280 mu mol/L RU conditions than the 420 or 560 mu mol/L RU conditions; cells cultivated in the presence of MMC also showed significantly more SCEs. All the RU concentrations tested (except in the 1120 mu mol/L RU treatment [no viable cells]) induced a significant reduction in the replication index (p < 0.0001). The present results confirm the genotoxic effects of RU on C. villosus lymphocytes in vitro, strongly suggesting that exposure to RU could induce DNA damage in C. villosus wildlife.
The hyoid apparatus reflects aspects of the form and function of feeding in living and extinct organisms and, despite the availability of information about this structure for Xenarthra, it remains little explored from an evolutionary perspective. Here we compare the morphology of the hyoid apparatus in xenarthrans, describing its general morphology and variation in each major clade and score these variations as phylogenetic characters, which were submitted to ancestral states reconstructions. The general hyoid morphology of Xenarthra consists of a v-bone (basihyal fused with the thyrohyals) and three paired bones (stylohyal, epihyal and ceratohyal), which are unfused in the majority of taxa. The clade-specific morphology observed here, allowed us to obtain additional synapomorphies for all major clades of Xenarthra (Cingulata, Pilosa, Folivora and Vermilingua), for Glyptodontididae, and for Nothrotheriidae. The fusion of hyoid elements are convergentelly achieved among the diphyletic extant tree sloths, some extinct ground sloths and glyptodontids. Despite the heavy influence of adaptive evolution related to feeding habits, the morphology of the hyoid apparatus proved to be a valuable source of phylogenetic information.
Within the Late Neogene Glyptodontidae of the Pampean region of Argentina, “ ” was described on the basis of some associated osteoderms of the dorsal carapace, which in addition include a partial skull and left hemimandible. The diagnostic characters are located on the exposed surface of the osteoderms of the dorsal carapace which somewhat resembles those of the Pleistocene genus . Although the relationship of “ . ” to the remaining Glyptodontidae has never been clarified, some cladistic analyses suggest a close phylogenetic affinity with the clade composed of + ( + ). A careful comparison of “ . to well-characterized taxa with similar stratigraphic and geographic provenance reveals that no significant skull differences are observed from Ameghino. It seems likely that the alleged ornamentation pattern that characterizes this species was produced by a taphonomic alteration of the exposed surface of the osteoderms, a process broadly distributed in glyptodonts having a “rosette” ornamentation pattern. Finally, some characters present in the osteoderms of the type specimen of “ . ” suggest that it may be a juvenile specimen. In summary, . ” should be considered a junior synonym of . . Parmi les Glyptodontidae du Néogène supérieur de la Pampa (Argentine), « » est décrit sur la base d’ostéodermes associés de la carapace dorsale, qui comportent en plus une partie de crâne et une demi-mandibule gauche. Les caractères diagnostiques sont situés sur la surface exposée des ostéodermes de la carapace dorsale, qui ressemblent un peu à ceux du genre pléistocène . Quoique la relation de « . » avec les Glyptodontidae restants n’ait jamais été précisée, quelques analyses cladistiques suggèrent une proche affinité phylogénétique avec le clade composé de + ( + ). Une comparaison soigneuse de « . » avec des taxons bien caractérisés de provenances stratigraphiques et géographiques similaires révèle qu’aucune différence significative au niveau du crâne n’est observée chez Ameghino. Il semble probable que le motif d’ornementation supposé qui caractérise cette espèce a été produit par une altération taphonomique de la surface exposée des ostéodermes, un processus largement répandu chez les glyptodontes présentant un motif d’ornementation « en rosette ». Finalement, quelques caractères présents chez les ostéodermes du spécimen type d’« . » suggèrent qu’il puisse s’agir d’un juvénile. En résumé, « . » devrait être considéré comme un synonyme junior de . .
Ungual phalanges (the most distal bone within a limb) and claws (the overlying corneous sheath) from the third digit of the forefoot of selected Pleistocene ground sloths (Lestodon armatus, Glossotherium robustum, Scelidotherium leptocephalum and Megatherium americanum) are analysed, as well as those of some living xenarthrans for actualistic comparison, aiming at testing hypotheses of substrate usage and locomotor behaviour. The third digits were chosen for this study because of its size and nearly perfect bilateral symmetry, which increases the possibilities of revealing functional differences between taxa. The analyses performed were of inner and external curvature, the strength indicator and the mechanical advantage. The mechanical advantage indicates that the four ground sloths' species were well adapted for strenuous activities, such as digging, in which force rather than velocity is optimised. Their strength indicator shows expected values for their body size, while in Mylodon darwinii the value obtained was lower than expected. In the two curvature analyses L. armatus, G. robustum and M. americanum fall within the group of armadillos that dig, whereas S. leptocephalum does not, this might be due to a difference in the movements performed while performing an activity such as digging or similar to it.
Xenarthrans comprised an ecologically significant and diverse group of small to gigantic sized terrestrial insectivorous, omnivorous and herbivorous mammals during the Cenozoic in South America and during the Pleistocene in North America. Their peculiar tooth morphology has proven to be challenging for palaeodietary analyses of this group. Here we introduce a new approach to this problem by utilising the recently developed mesowear angle analysis for xenarthran palaeodietary analyses. The method is based on recording the relief of worn teeth as angles measured from the occlusal surfaces. We compare our results with other lines of evidence of extant and fossil xenarthran diets, based on direct observation, orthodentine microwear analyses and analyses of fossilised faecal material. Our results support previous findings and hypotheses on fossil xenarthran diets, but also provide new information on the diversity of dietary preferences in the diverse assemblages of large Pleistocene xenarthrans such as ground sloths and glyptodonts.
Recently, dental microwear analysis has been successfully employed to xenarthran teeth. Here, we present new data on use wear features on 16 molariforms of Orophodon hapaloides and Octodontotherium grande. These taxa count among the earliest sloths and are known from the Deseadan SALMA (late Oligocene). Modern phylogenetic analyses classify Octodontotherium and Orophodon within Mylodontoidea with whom they share lobate cheek teeth with an outer layer of cementum and a thick layer of orthodentine. Similar target areas of 100μm2 were analyzed on the orthodentine surface of each tooth by stereomicroscopic microwear and by SEM microwear. Results were unlike those of extant sloths (stereomicroscopic microwear: Bradypus, Choloepus) and published data from fossil sloths (SEM microwear: Acratocnus, Megalonyx, Megatherium, Thinobadistes); thus, both approaches independently indicate a different feeding ecology for the Oligocene taxa. The unique microwear results suggest that both taxa fed on plant material with low to moderate intrinsic toughness (foliage, twigs) but also proposes intake of tougher food items (e.g., seeds). Frequent gouging of the tooth surfaces can be explained by exogenous influence on microwear, such as possible intake of abrasive grit. We suggest an unspecialized herbivorous diet for Octodontotherium and Orophodon utilizing diverse food resources of their habitat. These interpretations support the reconstruction of (1) Deseadan environments as open habitats with spreading savannas/grasslands and (2) both taxa as wide-muzzled bulk feeders at ground level.
The orientation of the semicircular canals of the inner ear in the skull of vertebrates is one of the determinants of the capacity of this system to detect a given rotational movement of the head. Past functional studies on the spatial orientation of the semicircular canals essentially focused on the lateral semicircular canal (LSC), which is supposedly held close to horizontal during rest and/or alert behaviors. However, they generally investigated this feature in only a few and distantly related taxa. Based on 3D‐models reconstructed from µCT‐scans of skulls, we examined the diversity of orientations of the LSC within one of the four major clades of placental mammals, that is, the superorder Xenarthra, with a data set that includes almost all extant genera and two extinct taxa. We observed a wide diversity of LSC orientations relative to the basicranium at both intraspecific and interspecific scales. The estimated phylogenetic imprint on the orientation of the LSC was significant but rather low within the superorder, though some phylogenetic conservatism was detected for armadillos that were characterized by a strongly tilted LSC. A convergence between extant suspensory sloths was also detected, both genera showing a weakly tilted LSC. Our preliminary analysis of usual head posture in extant xenarthrans based on photographs of living animals further revealed that the LSC orientation in armadillos is congruent with a strongly nose‐down head posture. It also portrayed a more complex situation for sloths and anteaters. Finally, we also demonstrate that the conformation of the cranial vault and nuchal crests as well as the orientation of the posterior part of the petrosal may covary with the LSC orientation in Xenarthra. Possible inferences for the head postures of extinct xenarthrans such as giant ground sloths are discussed in the light of these results. Orientation of the lateral semicircular canal of the inner ear within the skull of extant xenarthrans (Mammalia). Upper skull: in the extant armadillo Dasypus kappleri . Lower skull: in the extant three‐toed sloth Bradypus tridactylus . The red lines mark the plane of the lateral semicircular canal, which is more oblique in armadillos than in sloths (relative to the palate).
The tongue of anteaters (Xenarthra, Pilosa, Vermilingua) is a highly specialized for myrmecophagy. Here, we describe the topography and histology of the tongue, and compare it to that of other xenarthrans and other myrmecophagous eutherian mammals. The tongue of Vermilingua is long and slender, with an apical protuberance, which differs between Myrmecophagidae and Cyclopes didactylus . In the former, the rostral region is conical, and in the latter, it is dorsoventrally compressed, as observed in sloths. The tongue of Vermilingua has filiform and circumvallate papillae on the surface; foliate and fungiform papillae are absent. The filiform papillae of Myrmecophaga tridactyla are simple all over the tongue, differing from Tamandua tetradactyla and Cyclopes didactylus , which present composed filiform papillae in the rostral and middle regions. Histologically, the tongue has a peculiar organization of muscular and neurovascular tissues, differing from the usual mammalian pattern. However, the tongue structure is less divergent in Cyclopes . The presence of two circumvallate papillae is common to the three major clades of Xenarthra (Cingulata, Folivora and Vermilingua). In each group, the tongue may reflect functional features related to myrmecophagous (anteaters and some armadillos), omnivorous (remaining armadillos) and folivorous (sloths) feeding habits. The similarities between the tongues of Vermiligua and other non‐xenarthran eutherian myrmecophagous mammals are somewhat general and, under close inspection, superficial, being an example of different lineages achieving the same morphofunctional adaptations through distinct evolutionary pathways. The peculiar tongue of anteaters was investigated with gross anatomical observations, scanning electron microscopy and histological techniques. The morphology observed in the tongues of anteaters reflects the adaptive specialization of the organ for myrmecophagy. Comparing it with that of other xenarthrans, it is possible to infer some aspects about the evolution of the organ in the group. Picture of Tamandua tetradactyla by Karina Molina.