Linzey, Donald W. Wytheville Community College, Wytheville, Virginia.
Last reviewed:March 2016
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The former name of an order that included the Xenarthra (sloths, anteaters, and armadillos), Pholidota (pangolins), and Tubulidentata (aardvarks). The former order Edentata was so named because of the apparent lack of some or all teeth of its constituent members; however, most of the edentate species are not toothless, but have at least vestigial teeth. It was subsequently realized that Edentata was polyphyletic, meaning that it contained unrelated families and was thus invalid. It is now thought that any similarities among these groups are the result of similar adaptations to a common way of life and are not indicative of actual relationships. Thus, pangolins and aardvarks are now placed in separate orders (Pholidota and Tubulidentata, respectively), whereas the superorder Xenarthra was established to group the remaining edentate mammals [that is, the armadillos (order Cingulata), sloths, and anteaters (the latter two comprising the order Pilosa), which are all related]. The term edentate is now used only as a term of convenience when referring to these unusual mammals; it has no taxonomic validity. See also: Aardvark; Adaptation (biology); Anteater; Armadillo; Dentition; Mammalia; Pholidota; Sloth; Tooth; Tubulidentata
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