We present a survey of the morphological diversity of the bony labyrinth of the inner ear in Xenarthra, including the fossil ground sloth Megatherium. Using a combination of traditional and geometric morphometrics, correlation analyses, and qualitative observations, we attempt to extract independent and informative phylogenetic characters of the bony labyrinth for the superorder. Geometric morphometric analyses demonstrate a strong imprint of phylogenetic history on the shape of the bony labyrinth of xenarthrans and a weak influence of allometry. Discrete characters mapped on a consensus cladogram for xenarthrans show support for many traditional nodes within the superorder and may also provide critical information for problematic nodes within Cingulata. A relatively large lateral semicircular canal may, for instance, represent a synapomorphy for the molecular clade allying fairy armadillos (Chlamyphorinae) to the Tolypeutinae. Striking convergences were detected when comparing Megatherium, the giant ground sloth, with extant armadillos and Chlamyphorus, the pink fairy armadillo, with the extant three- and two-toed sloths. These findings have the potential to help understand the phylogenetic relationships of fossil xenarthrans.
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Vol. 96 • No. 4