Temporal range: Paleocene–Recent
A pangolin // (also referred to as a scaly anteater or trenggiling) is a mammal of the order Pholidota. The one extant family, Manidae, has one genus, Manis, which comprises eight species. A number of extinct species are known. A pangolin has large keratin scales covering its skin, and is the only known mammal with this adaptation. It is found naturally in tropical regions throughout Africa and Asia. The name, pangolin, comes from the Malay word, pengguling, meaning "something that rolls up".
The physical appearance of a pangolin is marked by large, hardened, plate-like scales. The scales, which are soft on newborn pangolins but harden as the animal matures, are made of keratin, the same material of which human fingernails and tetrapod claws are made. The pangolin's scaled body is comparable to a pine cone or globe artichoke. It can curl up into a ball when threatened, with its overlapping scales acting as armour and its face tucked under its tail. The scales are sharp, providing extra defense. The front claws are so long they are unsuited for walking, so the animal walks with its fore paws curled over to protect them. Pangolins can also emit a noxious-smelling acid from glands near the anus, similar to the spray of a skunk. Pangolins, though, are not able to spray this acid like skunks. They have short legs, with sharp claws which they use for burrowing into termite and ant mounds, as well as climbing.
The size of pangolins varies by species, ranging from 30 to 100 centimetres (12 to 39 in). Females are generally smaller than males.
The tongues of pangolins are extremely elongated and extend into the abdominal cavity. By convergent evolution, pangolins, the giant anteater, and the tube-lipped nectar bat all have tongues which are unattached to their hyoid bone and extend past their pharynx deep into the thorax. This extension lies between the sternum and the trachea. Large pangolins can extend their tongues as much as 40 centimetres (16 in), with a diameter of only 0.5 centimetres (0.20 in).
Pangolins are nocturnal animals which use their well-developed sense of smell to find insects. The long-tailed pangolin is also active by day. Other species of pangolins spend most of the daytime sleeping curled up into a ball.
Pangolins lack teeth and the ability to chew. Instead, they tear open anthills or termite mounds with their powerful front claws and probe deep into them with their very long tongues. Pangolins have glands in their chests to lubricate the tongue with sticky, ant-catching saliva.
Gestation is 120–150 days. African pangolin females usually give birth to a single offspring at a time, but the Asiatic species can give birth from one to three. Weight at birth is 80–450 g (3–18 ounces), and the scales are initially soft. The young cling to the mother's tail as she moves about, although in burrowing species, they remain in the burrow for the first two to four weeks of life. Weaning takes place at around three months of age, and pangolins become sexually mature at two years.
Pangolins are hunted and eaten in many parts of Africa, and are one of the more popular types of bush meat. They are also in great demand in China because their meat is considered a delicacy and some Chinese believe pangolin scales have medicinal qualities. This, coupled with deforestation, has led to a large decrease in the numbers of giant pangolins. In November 2010, pangolins were added to the Zoological Society of London's list of genetically distinct and endangered mammals. Two species of pangolin are classified by the IUCN as Endangered species.
Though pangolin are protected by an international ban on their trade, populations have suffered from illegal trafficking due to beliefs in Asia that their ground-up scales can stimulate lactation or cure cancer or asthma. In the past decade there have been numerous seizures of illegally trafficked pangolin and pangolin meat in Asia. In one such incident in 2013, 10,000 kilograms of pangolin meat was seized from a Chinese vessel that ran aground in the Philippines.
The Guardian provided a description of the killing and eating of pangolins: "A Guangdong chef interviewed last year in the Beijing Science and Technology Daily described how to prepare a pangolin: 'We keep them alive in cages until the customer makes an order. Then we hammer them unconscious, cut their throats and drain the blood. It is a slow death. We then boil them to remove the scales. We cut the meat into small pieces and use it to make a number of dishes, including braised meat and soup. Usually the customers take the blood home with them afterwards.'"
Pangolins were classified with various other orders, for example Xenarthra, which includes the ordinary anteaters, sloths, and the similar-looking armadillos. But newer genetic evidence indicates their closest living relatives are the Carnivora with which they form the clade, Ferae. Some palaeontologists have classified the pangolins in the order Cimolesta, together with several extinct groups.
- ORDER PHOLIDOTA
- Family †Epoicotheriidae
- Family †Metacheiromyidae
- Family Manidae
- Subfamily †Eurotamanduinae
- Genus †Eurotamandua
- Subfamily Maninae
- Genus †Cryptomanis
- Genus †Eomanis
- Genus †Necromanis
- Genus †Patriomanis
- Genus Manis
- Subgenus Manis
- Subgenus Paramanis
- Subgenus Smutsia
- Subgenus Phataginus
- Tree pangolin (M. tricuspis)
- Subgenus Uromanis
- Long-tailed pangolin (M. tetradactyla)
- Subfamily †Eurotamanduinae
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- 'Asian unicorn' and scaly anteater make endangered list
- M. pendactyla, IUCN Red List
- M. javanica, IUCN Red List
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- 23 tonnes of pangolins seized in a week – traffic.org
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- "Chinese vessel on Philippine coral reef caught with illegal pangolin meat". Associated Press. 15 April 2013. Archived from the original on 2013-04-17. Retrieved 16 April 2013.
- "Boat Filled With 22,000 Pounds Of Pangolin Hits Endangered Coral Reef". Care2. 16 April 2013. Archived from the original on 2013-04-17. Retrieved 17 April 2013.
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- BioMed Central | Full text | A higher-level MRP supertree of placental mammals
- For example, McKenna & Bell 1997, p. 222 placed Ernanodonta in a separate suborder of Cimolesta near Pholidota, in which they included palaeanodonts. (Rose 2006, p. 210)
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- Pangolin: Wildlife summary from the African Wildlife Foundation
- A photograph of a pangolin
- Tree of Life of Pholidota
- National Geographic video of a Pangolin
- Proceedings of the Workshop on Trade and Conservation of Pangolins Native to south and Southeast Asia (PDF)