Evolution of body size in sloths and anteaters (Xenarthra, Pilosa): phylogeny, metabolism, diet and substrate preferences
Pilosa include anteaters (Vermilingua) and sloths (Folivora). Modern tree sloths are represented by two genera, Bradypus and Choloepus (both around 4–6 kg), whereas the fossil record is very diverse, with approximately 90 genera ranging in age from the Oligocene to the early Holocene. Fossil sloths include four main clades, Megalonychidae, Megatheriidae, Nothrotheriidae, and Mylodontidae, ranging in size from tens of kilograms to several tons. Modern Vermilingua are represented by three genera, Cyclopes, Tamandua and Myrmecophaga, with a size range from 0.25 kg to about 30 kg, and their fossil record is scarce and fragmentary. The dependence of the body size on phylogenetic pattern of Pilosa is analysed here, according to current cladistic hypotheses. Orthonormal decomposition analysis and Abouheif C-mean were performed. Statistics were significantly different from the null-hypothesis, supporting the hypothesis that body size variation correlates with the phylogenetic pattern. Most of the correlation is concentrated within Vermilingua, and less within Mylodontidae, Megatheriidae, Nothrotheriidae and Megalonychidae. Influence of basal metabolic rate (BMR), dietary habits and substrate preference is discussed. In anteaters, specialised insectivory is proposed as the primary constraint on body size evolution. In the case of sloths, mylodontids, megatheriids and nothrotheriids show increasing body size through time; whereas megalonychids retain a wider diversity of sizes. Interplay between BMR and dietary habits appears to be the main factor in shaping evolution of sloth body size.