Here, we review population genetic, phylogeographic, and phylogenetic studies on xenarthrans and show how this information fits in current discussions about patterns of diversification within the Neotropics. Specifically, we focus on how the genetic diversity of xenarthrans has been shaped by important historical processes such as Andean uplift, the Great American Biotic Interchange, and fluctuating linkages between the Amazon and Atlantic forests. We also describe latitudinal patterns of differentiation within the Atlantic forest and discuss how these might have been generated. Even with the modest amount of information currently available, our comparative analyses indicate 3 things: the Andes may have promoted events of intraspecific divergence for at least 2 xenarthran species; the biogeographic history of the Neotropical rain forests influenced the divergence of clades in sloths; and inter- and intra-specific genetic patterns reveal a very high diversity in xenarthrans, probably higher than currently recognized from morphological data. Finally, we highlight Xenarthra as an appropriate model for investigating biogeographic patterns in the Neotropics and also point to additional directions to be taken in future studies of this unique mammal group.
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Vol. 96 • No. 4