- Pangolins, or scaly anteaters, are mammals of the order Pholidota. The name pangolin comes from the Malay word pengguling, meaning "one who rolls up".
Physical DescriptionPangolins have large, protective keratin scales covering their skin, which are soft on newborn pangolins, but harden as the animal matures. The scales are sharp, providing extra defense from predators. Pangolins can curl up into a ball when threatened, with their overlapping scales acting as armor, while they protect their face by tucking it under their tail. They are the only known mammals with this feature. They have short legs, with sharp claws which they use for burrowing into ant and termite mounds, as well as climbing.
Pangolins can also emit a noxious-smelling chemical from glands near the rear, similar to the spray of a skunk.
The tongues of pangolins are extremely long like those of the giant anteater and the tube-lipped nectar bat. Large pangolins can extend their tongues as much as 40 cm (16 in), with a diameter of only 0.5 cm (0.20 in).
HabitatPangolins live in hollow trees or burrows, depending on the species. The one extant family, Manidae, has three genera: Manis, which comprises four species living in Asia; Phataginus, which comprises two species living in Africa; and Smutsia, which comprises two species also living in Africa.
Diet and BehaviourMost pangolins are nocturnal animals that use their well-developed sense of smell to find insects. Their diet consists of various species of ants and termites and may be supplemented by other insects, especially larvae. They are somewhat particular and tend to consume only one or two species of insects, even when many species are available to them. A pangolin can consume 140 to 200 g (4.9 to 7.1 oz) of insects per day.
Pangolins have a very poor sense of vision, so they rely heavily on smell and hearing. Pangolins also lack teeth, therefore they have evolved other physical characteristics to help them eat ants and termites. They use their powerful front claws to dig into trees, ground, and vegetation to find prey, then proceed to use their long tongues to probe inside the insect tunnels and to retrieve their prey. Their saliva is sticky, causing ants and termites to stick to their long tongues when they are hunting through insect tunnels. As they do not have teeth, pangolins also lack the ability to chew; however, while foraging, they ingest small stones which accumulate in their stomachs to help to grind up ants. This part of their stomach is called the gizzard, and it is also covered in keratinous spines. These spines further aid in the grinding up and digestion of the pangolin's prey.
Some species, such as the tree pangolin, use their strong, prehensile tails to hang from tree branches and strip away bark from the trunk, exposing insect nests inside.
ConservationPangolins are threatened by hunting (for their meat and scales) and heavy deforestation of their natural habitats, and are the most trafficked mammals in the world. This, coupled with deforestation, has led to a large decrease in the numbers of pangolins. Pangolins have received increasing conservation attention in recent years. Many attempts have been made to reproduce pangolins in captivity, but due to their reliance on wide-ranging habitats and very particular diets, these attempts are often unsuccessful. They are susceptible to diseases such as pneumonia and the development of ulcers in captivity, complications which can lead to an early death. Recently, researchers have been able to improve artificial pangolin habitats to allow for reproduction of pangolins, providing some hope for future reintroduction of these species into their natural habitats.
So, how do you feel about pangolins? Did you know about them before they took over the forums? I for one only knew them from meme images ("why do pangolins always look like they are nervous about asking you to prom") and thought they were some type of armadillo. They're extremely cute, though; they're like pinecones with party blower tongues. I was surprised to read about how endangered they are.
By the way, every third Saturday of February is supposedly World Pangolin Day. Not that you need to know that, now that every day is World Pangolin Day.