The superorder Xenarthra is a group of placental mammals, extant today only in the Americas and represented by anteaters, tree sloths, and armadillos. The origins of the order can be traced as far back as the Paleocene, as early as 59 million years ago in South America. Xenarthrans developed and diversified extensively in South America during its long period of isolation in the early to mid Cenozoic Era. They had invaded the Antilles by the early Miocene and, starting about 9 Mya, spread to Central and North America as part of the Great American Interchange. Nearly all of the formerly abundant megafaunal xenarthrans, such as ground sloths, glyptodonts, and pampatheres, became extinct at the end of the Pleistocene.
|Hoffmann's two-toed sloth (Choloepus hoffmanni)|
|Orders and suborders|
Xenarthrans share several characteristics not present in other placental mammals. The name Xenarthra, which means "strange joints", was chosen because their vertebral joints have extra articulations unlike other mammals. This trait is referred to as "xenarthry". Also, unlike other mammals, the ischium and sacrum are fused. The males have internal testicles, which are located between the bladder and the rectum. Furthermore, xenarthrans have the lowest metabolic rates among the therians. They also seem to lack a functional pineal gland.
Xenarthrans were previously classified alongside the pangolins and aardvarks in the order Edentata (meaning toothless, because the members do not have incisors and lack, or have poorly developed, molars). Subsequently, Edentata was found to be a polyphyletic grouping whose New World and Old World taxa are unrelated, and it was split up to reflect their true phylogeny. Aardvarks and pangolins are now placed in individual orders, and the new order Xenarthra was erected to group the remaining families (which are all related). The name Xenarthra means "strange joints", and was chosen because their vertebral joints have extra articulations and are unlike those of any other mammals. The morphology of xenarthrans generally suggests that the anteaters and sloths are more closely related to each other than either is to the armadillos; this is upheld by molecular studies. Since its conception, Xenarthra has increasingly come to be considered to be of a higher rank than 'order'; some authorities consider it to be a cohort, while others consider it to be a superorder. Whatever the rank, Xenarthra is now generally considered to be divided into two orders: Cingulata, which contains the armadillos; and Pilosa, which contains the Vermilingua (anteaters) and Folivora (sloths; previously known as Tardigrada or Phyllophaga).
Xenarthra may be most closely related to either Afrotheria (in the group Atlantogenata), Boreoeutheria (in the group Exafroplacentalia), or Epitheria (comprising Afrotheria and Boreoeutheria). In other words, it may be nested within Eutheria or it may be the basal extant group. A comprehensive phylogeny by Goloboff et al. includes xenarthrans as a sister clade of Euarchontoglires within Boreoeutheria (Laurasiatheria+Euarchontoglires).
- Order Cingulata
- Family Chlamyphoridae: armadillos and glyptodonts
- Greater fairy armadillo, Calyptophractus retusus
- Pink fairy armadillo, Chlamyphorus truncatus
- Northern naked-tailed armadillo, Cabassous centralis
- Chacoan naked-tailed armadillo, Cabassous chacoensis
- Southern naked-tailed armadillo, Cabassous unicinctus
- Greater naked-tailed armadillo, Cabassous tatouay
- Screaming hairy armadillo, Chaetophractus vellerosus
- Big hairy armadillo, Chaetophractus villosus
- Andean hairy armadillo, Chaetophractus nationi
- Six-banded armadillo or yellow armadillo, Euphractus sexcinctus
- Giant armadillo, Priodontes maximus
- Southern three-banded armadillo, Tolypeutes matacus
- Brazilian three-banded armadillo, Tolypeutes tricinctus
- Pichi or dwarf armadillo, Zaedyus pichiy
- Subfamily †Glyptodontinae: glyptodonts
- Family Dasypodidae: long-nosed armadillos
- Nine-banded armadillo or long-nosed armadillo, Dasypus novemcinctus
- Seven-banded armadillo, Dasypus septemcinctus
- Southern long-nosed armadillo, Dasypus hybridus
- Llanos long-nosed armadillo, Dasypus sabanicola
- Great long-nosed armadillo, Dasypus kappleri
- Hairy long-nosed armadillo, Dasypus pilosus
- Yepes's mulita, Dasypus yepesi
- Family †Pampatheriidae: pampatheres
- Family Chlamyphoridae: armadillos and glyptodonts
- Order Pilosa
- Suborder Folivora : sloths
- Family Bradypodidae: three-toed sloths
- Family Megalonychidae: two-toed sloths and extinct megalonychid ground sloths
- Family †Megatheriidae: megatheriid ground sloths
- Family †Mylodontidae: mylodontid ground sloths
- Family †Nothrotheriidae: nothrotheriid ground sloths and aquatic sloths
- Suborder Vermilingua : anteaters
- Suborder Folivora : sloths
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- The Pineal Gland and its Endocrine Role
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