Morphology, molecular phylogeny, and taxonomic inconsistencies in the study of Bradypus sloths (Pilosa: Bradypodidae)
de Moraes Barros, N., Silva, J.A. and Morgante, J.S., 2011. Morphology, molecular phylogeny, and taxonomic inconsistencies in the study of Bradypus sloths (Pilosa: Bradypodidae). Journal of Mammalogy, 92(1), pp.86-100.
This study focuses on morphological and molecular data analyses, misidentifications, and phylogenetic inconsistencies regarding Bradypus variegatus (the brown-throated sloth) and B. tridactylus (the pale-throated sloth). Misidentifications were recorded on 75 of 313 museum specimens of Bradypus. Almost 90% of the misidentified specimens were B. variegatus from north-central Brazil, erroneously attributed to B. tridactylus. These misidentified specimens are reported in taxonomic reviews as the southernmost records of B. tridactylus. A history of confusing nomenclature regarding sloth species exists, and these particular misidentifications could be attributable to the similarity in face and throat color between B. variegatus from north-central Brazil and B. tridactylus. The molecular phylogeny of morphologically confirmed sloth specimens exhibits 2 monophyletic lineages representing B. variegatus and B. tridactylus. The split time between these 2 lineages was estimated at 6 million years ago (mya), contradicting previous studies that estimated this divergence to be 0.4 mya. Taxonomic inconsistencies were detected when comparing the molecular phylogeny to previously published DNA sequences ascribed to B. tridactylus. Misidentification or introgression could underlie such phylogenetic incongruities. Regardless of their causes, these discrepancies lead to misstatements regarding geographic distribution, phylogeny, and taxonomy of B. variegatus and B. tridactylus.
Key words: Bradypus, ecology, biology, conservation, genetics