Pangolin, which is a mammal in the order Pholidota, are sometimes called “scaly anteaters.” Manidae is the only family that still exists. It consists of three genera: Manis, Phataginus, and Smutsia. Manis consists of the four species that live in Asia. Phataginus and Smutsia, on the other hand, each have two species that live in sub-Saharan Africa. The length of these species ranges from 30 to 100 cm. There are also a number of pangolin species that became extinct.
In contrast to all other mammals, pangolins are the only ones to have enormous, defensive scales of keratin (the same material as fingernails and toenails). So, where do pangolins live? Depending on the species, they live in hollow trees or in holes in the ground. Pangolins are active at night and eat mostly ants and termites, which they catch with their long tongues. Most of the time, they live alone and only get together to mate and have a litter of one to three babies, which they care for about two years.
So, what is a pangolin? A pangolin has large, hard, overlapping scales that look like plates. When the pangolin is young, the scales are soft, but they get harder as the animal grows up. Like human fingernails and tetrapod claws, they consist of the protein keratin. They are very different from the scales of reptiles in both structure and material.
The scales on the pangolin’s body make it look like a pine cone. It can hide its face by burying it beneath its tail and rolling into a ball when it feels any threat. The scales that overlap each other on its body act as armor. The scales are sharp, which helps protect the animal from being eaten.
From glands near the anus, pangolins can release a chemical that smells bad, like what a skunk does when it sprays. They have short legs & sharp claws that they use to climb and dig into ant and termite nests.
Like the giant anteater and the tube-lipped nectar bat, the root of the pangolin’s tongue does not attach to the hyoid bone. Instead, it is in the thorax between the sternum and the trachea. Large pangolins can stick out their tongues up to 40 cm, but their tongues are only about 0.5 cm in diameter.
What Do Pangolins Eat?
Insects are what pangolins eat. Most of what they eat are different kinds of ants and termites, but they may also eat other insects, especially larvae. They are picky eaters and usually only eat one or two kinds of insects, even though there are many kinds around. A giant pangolin can eat 140–200 g (5–7 oz) of insects each day. Pangolins play an important role in controlling the number of termites in their natural environments.
Pangolins can’t see very well. Also, they have no teeth. They use their hearing and smell senses a lot, and other parts of their bodies also help them eat ants and termites. The bones in their bodies are strong, and their front legs are strong enough to tear into termite mounds. These animals utilize their strong front claws to dig into trees, soil, and plants to find food. Then, they use their long tongues to probe inside the insect tunnels and get their food.
Pangolins are able to find and eat insects because of how their tongue and stomach are made. Their saliva is sticky, so ants and termites stick to their long tongues when they hunt for food in insect tunnels. Pangolins don’t have teeth, so they can’t chew.
However, when they are looking for food, they eat small stones, namely gastroliths. These stones build up in their stomachs and help them crush up ants. This stomach part has the name gizzard, & it has spines like the rest of the body. These spines help the pangolin grind up and digest its food even more.
Some species, like the tree pangolin, use their strong, prehensile tails to hang from tree branches and strip the bark of the trunk, exposing insect nests inside.
Most pangolins are nocturnal animals that find insects by using their strong sense of smell. Daytime activity by the long-tailed pangolin is not uncommon. Other pangolin species, on the other hand, spend most of the day curling up in a ball sleeping.
Some pangolins live in hollow trees, while those that live on the ground dig tunnels up to 3.5 m (11 ft) deep. In order to get around, the front claws of some pangolins curve under the foot pad. On their back legs, though, they use the whole foot pad. Some also act like they are walking on two legs and may walk a few steps in this way. The pangolin can also swim well.
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How Does Pangolin Reproduce?
Pangolins live alone and only get together to mate. Most of the time, the male and female pangolins meet near a watering hole at night to mate. Males are bigger and can weigh up to 40 percent more than females. Even though there is no set time for them to mate, they usually do it once a year, in autumn or summer. Instead of going after the females, the males leave traces of their urine or feces so the females can find them. Males will use their tails as clubs in a struggle over mating rights if more than one male has interest in the same female.
Different species have different gestation periods that range from about 70 to 140 days. Female African pangolins usually only have one baby at a time, but females of the Asiatic species can have anywhere from one to three babies at once. The average length at birth is 150 mm, and the weight ranges from 80 to 450 g. When they are born, the scales are white and soft. After a few days, they get hard and dark, just like adult pangolins. During the vulnerable stage, the mother stays in the burrow with her baby and feeds it.
If she senses danger, she wraps her body around it. The young ride on the mother’s tail for the first two to four weeks of life, although burrowing species do not leave the burrow until they are independent. After a month, the mother carries her young out of the burrow for the first time. Around three months old, the young stop nursing and start eating insects instead. This is when they are said to be “weaned.” The mother abandons her children as they reach sexual maturity, usually around the age of two.
What’s So Special About A Pangolin?
Pangolins are the animals that people trade the most around the world. People in China and Vietnam love pangolins for their meat and unique scales. Even though their scales are a good defense against predators, poachers can’t use them against them, and now all eight species in Asia and Africa are in danger.
Does Pangolin Spread Covid?
There is no clear evidence for pangolins spreading covid. So, pangolin covid is not a true thing at all.
What Is The Pangolin Killed For?
Scales from pangolins have uses in traditional Asian medicine and are sold on the black market.
Do Pangolins Bite?
They are so strong that not even lions can break them. Pangolins can cover their faces and bottoms by rolling up into a ball that is almost perfect. When it is fully out, a pangolin’s tongue can be more than 40cm long! Since they don’t have teeth and can’t chew, this is pretty helpful.
Why Is The Pangolin The Most Wanted Animal?
Do many people ask how many pangolins are left in the world? In places like China and Vietnam, people want pangolins a lot. People enjoy eating their meat, and their scales are used in traditional and home remedies. National and international laws protect all eight species of pangolin.
Do Pangolin Lay Eggs?
Pangolins are eggless mammals. Once a year, males and females mate, and each female gives birth to one to three young. Newborn pangolins have a name of pangopups, have soft, white scales that quickly harden into the animal’s distinctive appearance.
Are Pangolins Aggressive?
The bipedal waddle of the pangolin conveys an image of aggression that is about right. It has no teeth, lives alone, and can only defend itself by curling up into a ball and hoping the threat would go away.
Can You Own A Pangolin As A Pet?
The pangolin is a highly sought-after animal, but zoos have a hard time keeping them alive due to its high demand. Not a soul possesses them. Having them as household pets is against the law.
What Is Pangolin Blood Used For?
Despite having no medicinal or therapeutic benefit, in Asia, pangolin scales, blood, and fetuses are used to reportedly treat diseases like liver disorders, skin troubles, palsy, and edema.
Are Pangolins Bulletproof?
There have been stories of bullets ricocheting off of pangolins, but the animals are not completely safe from harm. However, a pangolin’s thick, protective scales can fend off nearly any attempt to puncture its skin.
Do Pangolins Stink?
Pangolins, like skunks, can use glands near their anus to generate an offensive odor to mark their territory. Because of their weak eyesight and nocturnal lifestyle, pangolins rely on their keen sense of smell and hearing to track down their meal after dark.
What Is The Lifespan Of A Pangolin?
Similar to the other pangolin species kept as pets, the longest a huge pangolin was able to survive in captivity was four years. There is a rare record of a pangolin’s (species unknown) longevity of 12–13 years in captivity.
Are Pangolins Endangered?
Six of the world’s eight pangolin species are now considered to be “Endangered or Critically Endangered,” making them the most traded mammals on the planet.
Are Pangolins Blind?
While their eyesight isn’t completely nonexistent, a pangolin’s isn’t great.
What Are Pangolin Babies Called?
According to the African Wildlife Foundation, newborn pangos (also known as pangopups) are only approximately 6 inches (15.24 cm) in length and 12 ounces (340 grams) in weight. At first, their scales are pink and pliable, but after a day, they harden. Infant pangolins frequently ride on the tails of their mothers.
Can A Pangolin Hurt A Human?
These creatures are timid and harmless to humans.
How Many Babies Does A Pangolin Have?
Females of the African pangolin only have one baby every few years, but those of the Asian variety have litters of one to three. A mother will tend to her young by remaining in the burrow with them while they are young and defenseless. When her children reach sexual maturity, usually around the age of two, she will abandon them.
Are Pangolins Dinosaurs?
However, conventional wisdom is that armadillos and pangolins do not have a relation to dinosaurs. Experts believe the development of these animals from “small, rudimentary, generic” placental mammals towards the end of the Cretaceous.
Can You Touch A Pangolin?
As a defense mechanism, a pangolin would hide its head with its front legs, making its scales vulnerable to attack. To avoid any harm, it may coil itself into a tight ball, and its sharp tail scales have use in weapon making.
Parvaiz Yousuf is a senior SEO writer and editor with an experience of over 6 years, who also doubles up as a researcher. With an MSc zoology degree under his belt and possessing complete Search Engine Optimization (SEO) knowledge, he works as a science journalist for a US-based website and Asian Scientist (A Singapore-based magazine). He also works as Director of Wetland Research Centre, Wildlife Conservation Fund YPJK since 2018. Besides, he has several publications to his name on cancer biology and biochemistry in some reputed journals such as Nature & International Journal of Molecular Sciences, & magazines such as Science Reporter, BUCEROS BNHS, and has an abiding interest in ornithology. He also worked as a Research Associate for JK Policy Institute.