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1 December 2013 Beyond Natural History: Some Thoughts About Research Priorities in the Study of Xenarthrans
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Based on a review of the existing literature on xenarthrans, we argue that there are few obvious examples of publications that could be considered “classics”, i.e., those with far-reaching and long-lasting impacts. Why not? Xenarthrans are exceptional mammals, but they are notoriously difficult to study in the wild. Perhaps for this reason, among others, much of the research on xenarthrans has been primarily descriptive. Clearly, this is a necessary first step when so little is known about so many species. However, if we are to increase general awareness of xenarthrans and their biology, we need to move beyond a focus on the intrinsically interesting properties of particular species to how those properties can be exploited to address fundamental questions in ecology, evolution, and other disciplines, ideally with findings that will have implications for the study of non-xenarthrans as well. In this essay we try to identify specific areas that appear promising for such an approach. For field studies, the single most pressing need is for more longterm studies of populations of known individuals. Difficulties in maintaining xenarthrans in captivity may make laboratory-based investigations more challenging, but even here multiple opportunities exist. The end result of this exercise is not to issue some rigid manifesto regarding research on xenarthrans, but rather to initiate a discussion within the scientific community on priorities for future work.
W. J. Loughry and Colleen M. McDonough "Beyond Natural History: Some Thoughts About Research Priorities in the Study of Xenarthrans," Edentata 14(1), (1 December 2013).
Received: 3 July 2013; Accepted: 25 July 2013; Published: 1 December 2013

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