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EDENTATES

     The mammalian order Edentata is composed of armadillos, anteaters, and sloths which evolved in South America.  Modern edentates lack both incisors and canines. 

ANTEATERS

     Anteaters lack teeth in their elongated skulls.  Most of an anteater’s diet is composed of ants and termites.  Nests of these insects can be broken using a large claw on the third finger.  While the genus Tamandua can feed both in trees and on the ground, the larger genus Myrmecophaga is limited to movement on the ground.  Young Myrmecophaga can cling to their mother’s back for their first year of life.

Tamandua

The following images compare the skulls of the two Paraguayan anteaters, the smaller Tamandua and the elongated Myrmecophaga.
skull skulls
skull skulls
   
   

SLOTHS

FAMILY BRADYPODIDAE

Sloths are herbivores.  They move so slowly that algae typically grows on its back.  About 10% of their days are spent hanging by their arms slowly moving hand over hand.  Bradypus can turn its head 270 degrees.  They use their claws for defense.  Tree sloths vary in the number of cervical vertebrae: 5-8 in Coloepus  and 8-9 in Bradypus (Rose, from Szalay, 1993). 

     The fossil record includes a variety of ground sloths which ranged in size from that of a pig to the elephant-sized Megatherium which possessed huge claws. 

    At least some of this unique South American fauna survived until early human groups arrived, such as the giant sloths.  The mythological figures of native Paraguayans include a fierce creature known as the Ao-Ao.  Although this seems a bit odd given that Ao-Ao is the guarani word for sloth and modern sloths are anything but fierce, it is quite possible that this legend has its origin in the hunting experiences of the early native South Americans which encountered the much larger relatives of the modern sloth.  Below is a Paraguayan representation of the mythological Ao-Ao.