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Palaeoproteomics resolves sloth relationships

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  • Samantha Louise Presslee
  • Graham J. Slater
  • Ross MacPhee
  • François Pujos
  • Analía M. Forasiepi
  • Roman Fischer
  • Kelly Molloy
  • Meaghan Mackie
  • Jesper V Olsen
  • Alejandro Kramarz
  • Matías Taglioretti
  • Fernando Scaglia
  • Maximiliano Lezcano
  • José Luis Lanata
  • John Southon
  • Robert Feranec
  • Jonathan Bloch
  • Adam Hajduk
  • Fabiana M. Martin
  • Rodolfo Salas Gismondi
  • Marcelo Reguero
  • Christian de Muizon
  • Alex D. Greenwood
  • Brian T. Chait


Publication details

JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
DateAccepted/In press - 28 Apr 2019
DateE-pub ahead of print - 6 Jun 2019
DatePublished (current) - 1 Jul 2019
Issue number7
Number of pages10
Pages (from-to)1121-1130
Early online date6/06/19
Original languageEnglish


The living tree sloths Choloepus and Bradypus are the only remaining members of Folivora, a major xenarthran radiation that occupied a wide range of habitats in many parts of the western hemisphere during the Cenozoic, including both continents and the West Indies. Ancient DNA evidence has played only a minor role in folivoran systematics, as most sloths lived in places not conducive to genomic preservation. Here we utilize collagen sequence information, both separately and in combination with published mitochondrial DNA evidence, to assess the relationships of tree sloths and their extinct relatives. Results from phylogenetic analysis of these datasets differ substantially from morphology-based concepts: Choloepus groups with Mylodontidae, not Megalonychidae; Bradypus and Megalonyx pair together as megatherioids, while monophyletic Antillean sloths may be sister to all other folivorans. Divergence estimates are consistent with fossil evidence for mid-Cenozoic presence of sloths in the West Indies and an early Miocene radiation in South America.

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© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited 2019. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.

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