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Preserved ground pangolin (from the collection of The Children's Museum of Indianapolis)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Infraclass: Eutheria
Superorder: Laurasiatheria
Order: Pholidota
Weber, 1904
Family: Manidae
Gray, 1821
Genus: Manis
Linnaeus, 1758

Manis culionensis
Manis gigantea
Manis temminckii
Manis tricuspis
Manis tetradactyla
Manis crassicaudata
Manis pentadactyla
Manis javanica

A pangolin /ˈpæŋɡəlɪn/ (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 also known. A pangolin has large keratin scales covering its skin, and is the only known mammal with this adaptation.2 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".3


Sunda pangolin, Manis javanica

The physical appearance of a pangolin is marked by large, hardened, overlapping 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.citation needed They have short legs, with sharp claws which they use for burrowing into termite and ant mounds, as well as climbing.citation needed

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.4 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).5


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.5

Arboreal pangolins live in hollow trees, whereas the ground dwelling species dig tunnels underground, to a depth of 3.5 metres (11 ft).5 Pangolins are also good swimmers.5


Indian pangolin defending itself against Asiatic lions

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.

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.


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.5 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.6


A coat of armor made of pangolin scales, an unusual object, was presented to George III in 1820.

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.7 Two species of pangolin are classified by the IUCN as Endangered species.89

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.10 In the past decade there have been numerous seizures of illegally trafficked pangolin and pangolin meat in Asia.11121314 In one such incident in 2013, 10,000 kilograms of pangolin meat was seized from a Chinese vessel that ran aground in the Philippines.1516


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.1718 Some19 palaeontologists have classified the pangolins in the order Cimolesta, together with several extinct groups indicated (†) below.












  1. ^ Schlitter, D. A. (2005). Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M, eds. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 530–531. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  2. ^ Briggs, Mike, Briggs, Peggy (2006). The Encyclopedia of World Wildlife. Paragon Books. p. 63. 
  3. ^ Julie Pearsall, ed. (2002). Concise Oxford English Dictionary (10th ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 1030. ISBN 0-19-860572-2. 
  4. ^ Chan, Lap-Ki (1995). "Extrinsic Lingual Musculature of Two Pangolins (Pholidota: Manidae)". Journal of Mammalogy (Journal of Mammalogy, Vol. 76, No. 2) 76 (2): 472–480. doi:10.2307/1382356. JSTOR 1382356. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Mondadori, Arnoldo Ed., ed. (1988). Great Book of the Animal Kingdom. New York: Arch Cape Press. p. 252. 
  6. ^ Dickman, Christopher R. (1984). MacDonald, D., ed. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. pp. 780–781. ISBN 0-87196-871-1. 
  7. ^ 'Asian unicorn' and scaly anteater make endangered list
  8. ^ M. pendactyla, IUCN Red List
  9. ^ M. javanica, IUCN Red List
  10. ^ Bettina Wassener (March 12, 2013). "No Species Is Safe From Burgeoning Wildlife Trade". The New York Times. Retrieved March 13, 2013. 
  11. ^ John D. Sutter (3 April 2014). "The Most Trafficked Mammal You've Never Heard Of". CNN. 
  12. ^ 23 tonnes of pangolins seized in a week –
  13. ^ Watts, Johnathan (May 2007). "'Noah's Ark' of 5,000 rare animals found floating off the coast of China". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 August 2011. 
  14. ^ "Asia in Pictures (28May2012)". The Wall Street Journal. May 2012. Retrieved 28 May 2012. 
  15. ^ "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. 
  16. ^ "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. 
  17. ^ Murphy, Willian J. et al. (2001-12-14). "Resolution of the Early Placental Mammal Radiation Using Bayesian Phylogenetics". Science 294 (5550): 2348–2351. doi:10.1126/science.1067179. PMID 11743200. 
  18. ^ Beck, Robin MD; Bininda-Emonds, Olaf RP; Cardillo, Marcel; Liu, Fu-Guo; Purvis, Andy (2006). "A higher-level MRP supertree of placental mammals". BMC Evolutionary Biology 6 (1): 93. doi:10.1186/1471-2148-6-93. PMC 1654192. PMID 17101039. 
  19. ^ 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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