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A group of mammals that encompasses several orders of unusual fossil and living animals characterized by reduced or strongly modified teeth. Usually included in this group are the order Pholidota, the pangolins or scaly anteaters of Africa and Southeast Asia; the order Xenarthra, the true anteaters, armadillos, sloths, and their relatives derived mainly from South and Central America; and the extinct Palaeanodonta, an early Cenozoic group of burrowing mammals from North America. The term “edentate” means toothless. Historically a wide range of toothless mammals and mammals with reduced dentition have been incorporated in this taxonomic group, among them aardvarks and echidnas. Modern systematists restrict the term to pholidotans, xenarthrans, and palaeanodonts based on several shared anatomical specializations found exclusively in these three taxa. Only the pangolins and the true anteaters lack teeth entirely, but all edentates are characterized by a reduced dentition. Typically the incisor teeth are lacking, the tooth enamel is strongly reduced or absent (although enamel is retained in a few of the early fossil forms and in the embryos of living armadillos), and tooth replacement is lost. All three groups share digging adaptations, and specializations for feeding on ants and termites. In addition, pangolins and some xenarthrans have a scaly external body covering. Some mammalian systematists have suggested that edentates represent one of the most primitive groups of living placental mammals, although the matter is somewhat controversial. See Tooth

McGraw-Hill Concise Encyclopedia of Bioscience. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



an order of mammals. These animals range in length from 12 cm (lesser pichiciego) to 120 cm (giant anteater); their weight ranges from 90 g to 55 kg (giant armadillo). The body is densely covered with coarse or silky fur. In armadillos, the top of the head, body, and tail is covered with a shell of large bony and horny hinged plates. The rootless teeth are not differentiated and lack enamel; there are no incisors or canines. Anteaters have no teeth. The anterior limbs are adapted for climbing trees and digging: the highly developed second and third toes have powerful sicklelike claws. Some species (sloths) have six to nine cervical vertebrae.

The order Edentata comprises three families: Myrmecophagidae (anteaters), Bradypodidae (sloths), and Dasypodidae (armadillos). There are 14 genera, with 30 species; these are distributed in South and Central America and in the southern part of North America. Edentates inhabit arid open regions, savannas, and tropical forests. There are terrestrial, fossorial, and arboreal forms.

The Edentata are crepuscular and nocturnal animals. They feed on both animal substances (invertebrates and small vertebrates) and plant substances. These mammals reproduce once a year. The gestation period, which usually has a latent period, lasts 120 to 260 days. There are usually up to four young in a litter; armadillos sometimes bear as many as 12 monozygotic young.

Fossil remains of numerous representatives of seven extinct families of Edentata are known from the Late Eocene in South America and from the Late Pliocene in North America. The fossils include the following giant forms: Megatherium, Mylodon, and Glyptodontidae. The majority of edentates are commercially hunted for their meat. Some species have become rare and are protected.


Zhizn’zhivotnykh, vol. 6. Moscow, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(vertebrate zoology)
An order of mammals characterized by the absence of teeth or the presence of simple prismatic, unspecialized teeth with no enamel.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
edentata stems was acquired from Kimaya, Consuelo, Misamis Oriental, Mindanao Island, Philippines.
El numero total de restos oseos con marcas de carnivoros es de 3, y se concentran exclusivamente en las muestras de Edentata (4,7% de la muestra total de este taxon).
Evolutionary trends of the histological pattern in the teeth of Edentata (Xenarthra).
Cycas edentata de Laub., in part, sensu de Laubenfels and Adema
Pliometanastes protistus (Edentata, Megalonychidae) from Knight's Ferry, California with discussion of early Hemphillian Megalonychids.
Along with the latter animals, it is placed in an ancient order once called Edentata, which translated literally means "without teeth." Unlike anteaters, however, the armadillo does have a set of simple, peglike cylinders of dentine.
Armadillos, sloths, anteaters and pangolins: orders Edentata and Pholidota, p.
One of these latter species, Anastrepha edentata Stone, is particularly mysterious, as no host has ever been reported from anywhere in its known range of South Florida and Puerto Rico (Norrbom 2004).