Osteoderm histology of the Pampatheriidae (Cingulata, Xenarthra, Mammalia): Implications for systematics, osteoderm growth, and biomechanical adaptation

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Abstract

Pampatheres are extinct, large-bodied cingulates, which share morphological characters with both armadillos and glyptodonts but are considered to be more closely related to the latter. The osteoderm histology of six pampathere taxa was examined and compared to the histology of other cingulate osteoderms. This study investigates the development and functional adaptation of pampathere osteoderms as well as the phylogenetic relationships of the Pampatheriidae within the Cingulata. We found that pampathere osteoderms share a uniform histological organization based on a basic diploe-like structure. After initial stages of intramembranous growth, metaplastic ossification, that is, the direct incorporation and mineralization of pre-existing protein fibers, plays an important role in osteoderm development and provides information on various kinds of soft tissue otherwise not preserved. The latest stages of osteoderm growth are dominated by periosteal bone formation especially in the superficial cortex. Movable band osteoderms show regular arrangements of incorporated fibers that may increase the resistance of particularly weak areas against strain. The histological composition of pampathere osteoderms is plesiomorphic in its basic structure but shows a number of derived features. A unique array of Sharpey's fibers that are incorporated into the bone matrix at sutured osteoderm margins is interpreted as a synapomorphy of pampatheres. The arrangement of dermal fibers in the deep and superficial cortexes supports the close relationship between pampatheres and glyptodonts. J. Morphol., 2012. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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