Therian mammals are known to move their forelimbs in a parasagittal plane, retracting the mobilised scapula during stance phase. Non-cursorial therian mammals often abduct the elbow out of the shoulder–hip parasagittal plane. This is especially prominent in Tamandua (Xenarthra), which suggests they employ aspects of sprawling (e.g. lizard-like) locomotion. Here, we tested whether tamanduas use sprawling forelimb kinematics, i.e. a largely immobile scapula with pronounced lateral spine bending and long-axis rotation of the humerus. We analysed high-speed videos and used X-ray motion analysis of tamanduas walking and balancing on branches of varying inclinations and provide a quantitative characterization of gaits and forelimb kinematics. Tamanduas displayed lateral sequence/lateral couplets on flat ground and horizontal branches, but increased diagonality on steeper inclines and declines, resulting in lateral sequence/diagonal couplets gaits. This result provides further evidence for high diagonality in arboreal species, probably maximising stability in arboreal environments. Further, the results reveal a mosaic of sprawling and parasagittal kinematic characteristics. The abducted elbow results from a constantly internally rotated scapula about its long axis and a retracted humerus. Scapula retraction contributes considerably to stride length. However, lateral rotation in the pectoral region of the spine (range: 21 deg) is higher than reported for other therian mammals. Instead, it is similar to that of skinks and alligators, indicating an aspect generally associated with sprawling locomotion is characteristic for forelimb kinematics of tamanduas. Our study contributes to a growing body of evidence of highly variable non-cursorial therian mammal locomotor kinematics.

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