Myology of the Feeding Apparatus of Myrmecophagid Anteaters (Xenarthra: Myrmecophagidae)
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The musculoskeletal feeding apparatus of anteaters in the family Myrmecophagidae (Eutheria: Xenarthra) is described, compared among the three extant genera (Tamandua, Myrmecophaga, Cyclopes), and interpreted in a phylogenetic framework. Character polarities are assessed with reference to other xenarthrans, eutherians, and didelphid marsupials. Xenarthrans are widely regarded as basal eutherians, and this is reflected in the apparent retention of plesiomorphic character states in jaw and pharyngeal musculature. Jaw closing muscles are architecturally simple, the stylohyoideus is absent, the stylopharyngeus is robust and architecturally complex, and the superior pharyngeal constrictor is weak. At the same time, the highly specialized trophic ecology of myrmecophagids is reflected in derived features of the jaw, tongue, and palatal musculature. The sternomandibularis is present, the tongue is largely composed of a sternog-lossus with no attachments to the hyoid apparatus, other glossus muscles are modified and do not enter the tongue, and the mylohyoideus and stylopharyngeus contribute to the soft palate, while other palatal muscles vary among the myrmecophagid genera. Feeding apparatus mycology provides further support for myrmecophagid monophyly. Documentation of the morphological transformations that lead to the myrmecophagid condition is hampered by incomplete data on feeding apparatus structure in nonmyrmecophagid xenarthrans (sloths and armadillos) but a tentative character mapping onto an independently derived phylogeny is offered.
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