DNA was extracted from the remains of 35 ground sloths from various parts of North and South America. Two specimens of Mylodon darwinii, a species that went extinct at the end of the last glaciation, yielded amplifiable DNA. However, of the total DNA extracted, only approximately 1/1000 originated from the sloth, whereas a substantial part of the remainder was of bacterial and fungal origin. In spite of this, > 1100 bp of sloth mitochondrial rDNA sequences could be reconstructed from short amplification products. Phylogenetic analyses using homologous sequences from all extant edentate groups suggest that Mylodon darwinii was more closely related to the two-toed than the three-toed sloths and, thus, that an arboreal life-style has evolved at least twice among sloths. The divergence of Mylodon and the two-toed sloth furthermore allows a date for the radiation of armadillos, anteaters, and sloths to be estimated. This result shows that the edentates differ from other mammalian orders in that they contain lineages that diverged before the end of the Cretaceous Period.