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Scientific classification

The order Xenarthra is a group of placental mammals, extant today only in the Americas. The origins of the order can be traced back as far as the early Tertiary (about 60 million years ago, or only a short time after the end of the dinosaur era).

It includes the anteaters, sloths, and armadillos. In the past, these families were classified together with the pangolins and Aardvark as the order Edentata (meaning toothless, because the members do not have front incisor teeth or molars, or have poorly-developed molars). It was subsequently realised that Edentata was polyphyletic—that it contained unrelated families and was thus invalid. Aardvarks and pangolins are now placed in individual orders, and the new order Xenarthra erected to group the remaining families (which are all related). The name Xenarthra means "strange joints", and was chosen because their vertebral joints are unlike those of any other mammals.