New, exceptionally well preserved skulls of the basal megalonychid ground sloth Eucholoeops ingens Ameghino have been recovered through recent field work in the late early Miocene Santa Cruz Formation of southern Argentina (Patagonia, Santacrucian SALMA). These specimens have permitted detailed description of the anatomy of the basicranium, endocranium, and orbital wall, including descriptions of the morphology and sutural relationships of the bones from this portion of the skull, and their associated cranial foramina. Comparisons are made to other megalonychid and megatherioid sloths, including the extant two-toed sloth Choloepus Illiger (Megalonychidae). As the descriptions are based on multiple specimens of E. ingens, we have been able to examine intraspecific variation in the features described, and have found marked differences among individual specimens in sutural patterns (e.g., the bones that surround the foramen ovale aperture), cranial foramina (e.g., the presence/absence of a postglenoid foramen), and bony morphology (e.g., fusion of the alae of the vomer). The basicranial and orbital morphology of Eucholoeops ingens is shown to possess numerous plesiomorphic aspects, including the presence of a descending lamina of the pterygoid that is hemispherical in outline, and the absence of an alisphenoid/parietal contact, no doubt due to its position as the oldest megalonychid known from relatively complete material. The presence of distinct grooves on the promontorial surface directed toward the fenestra ovalis suggest that Eucholoeops ingens may be the only known xenarthran to have retained a functional stapedial artery Into adulthood.
Vol. 52 • No. 2
Vol. 52 • No. 2