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Naturwissenschaften. 2014 Sep;101(9):715-25. doi: 10.1007/s00114-014-1208-9. Epub 2014 Jul 20.

When xenarthrans had enamel: insights on the evolution of their hypsodonty and paleontological support for independent evolution in armadillos.

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División Paleontología de Vertebrados, Museo de La Plata, Facultad de Ciencias Naturales y Museo, Universidad Nacional de La Plata, Paseo del Bosque s/n, B1900FWA, La Plata, Argentina,


All xenarthrans known to date are characterized by having permanent teeth that are both high crowned and open rooted, i.e., euhypsodont, and with a type of hypsodonty different from that of the rest of Placentalia: dentine hypsodonty. Also, most xenarthrans lack enamel; however, its presence has been reported in the fossil armadillo Utaetus buccatus and in living Dasypus. Considering the divergence of Xenarthra from other eutherians that possessed enameled teeth, the absence of enamel is a derived character. Diverse specializations are known in the dentition of xenarthrans, but the primitive pattern of their teeth and dentitions is still unknown. Here, we describe the mandible and teeth of a fossil armadillo, Astegotherium dichotomus (Astegotheriini, Dasypodidae), from the early Middle Eocene of Argentine Patagonia, with teeth showing both true enamel and closed roots. It is the oldest xenarthran with mandibular remains exhibiting protohypsodonty and is therefore likely representative of ancestral cingulates and xenarthrans generally. Astegotherium supports a recent hypothesis based on molecular data that enamel loss occurred independently not only within xenarthrans but also within dasypodid armadillos.

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