The analysis of orthodentine microwear has recently been established as a proxy for diet in extant and fossil xenarthrans (sloths, armadillos, and their extinct relatives). Previous analyses have relied on standardized comparison of sampling locations between taxa in order to statistically correlate microwear on xenarthran teeth with primary diet; variation in orthodentine microwear across the toothrow and its potential effect on dietary classification in xenarthrans remains unexplored. This study is the 1st to examine intertooth variation of microwear features in extant xenarthrans to test the necessity of standardized tooth comparison in orthodentine microwear analysis of paleodiet in fossil taxa. Statistical mean correlation tests were used to compare microwear variables between different sampling locations in a series of upper and lower teeth in 4 extant xenarthran species (Bradypus tridactylus [pale-throated three-toed sloth], Choloepus didactylus [Linnaeus' two-toed sloth], Dasypus novemcinctus [nine-banded armadillo], and Euphractus sexcinctus [six-banded armadillo]) and showed that microwear distribution between sampling locations is more conserved in three-toed sloths relative to two-toed sloths and armadillos. Significant variation in the latter groups may stem from uneven distribution of bite-force on the dentition in long-faced animals (two-toed sloths and armadillos) relative to short-faced animals (three-toed sloths), although food texture and intraspecific variation in diet may play a role as well. Based on results from extant taxa, standardized tooth comparison is required for analysis of paleodiet in glyptodonts and pampatheres and also is recommended for ground sloths in future studies of microwear.
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