MUSEO ARGENTINO DE CIENCIAS NATURALES "BERNARDINO RIVADAVIA"
Unidad Ejecutora - UE
The forelimb of early Miocene sloths (Mammalia, Xenarthra, Folivora): Morphometrics and functional implications for substrate preferences
TOLEDO, NESTOR; BARGO, MARÍA SUSANA; CASSINI, GUILLERMO HERNÁN; VIZCAÍNO, SERGIO FABIÁN
JOURNAL OF MAMMALIAN EVOLUTION
Año: 2012 vol. 19 p. 185 - 185
Early Miocene sloths are represented by a diversity of forms ranging from 38 to 95 kg. Their forelimb bones differ in shape from those of their closest living relatives (less than 10 kg), Bradypus and Choloepus. Such differences in shape could be related to differences in substrate preference (arboreal, semiarboreal, or ground-dwelling) or substrate use (climbing, digging, etc.). In order to detect putative patterns related to substrate preference, 21 linear measurements were defined and taken on the forelimb bones. The sample was composed of 22 specimens of fossil sloths and 134 specimens of extant mammals (marsupials, xenarthrans, pangolins, rodents, primates, and carnivorans), including arboreal, semiarboreal, and ground-dwelling taxa. Principal Components Analyses were performed on logarithms of original measurements, while functional indexes (Index of Fossorial Ability, Brachial Index, and Distal Epiphyseal Index) were calculated on raw data. The first three PCs accounted for 93.8% of the cumulative variability. PC1 roughly represented size, while positive values of PC2 represented mechanical advantage for features related to digging habits. Fossil sloths were clearly separated from living ones, sharing a common morphospace with anteaters and other good diggers. Conversely, living sloths shared a morphospace with primates. Similar results were obtained for DEI and IFA, with fossil sloths showing similar values to extant digging mammals. These results suggest that fossil sloths have a different functional pattern of forelimb use than that of extant ones, probably more similar to vermilinguas and pangolins, including putative good digging capabilities and/or semiarboreal habits. Substrate use seems to be interfering in the analysis of substrate preference based on forelimb morphology.