Pangolin - Wikipedia
PangolinFrom Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (Redirected from
)Order of mammals"Pholidota" redirects here. For the orchid, see
A pangolin in defensive posture, Horniman Museum, London
are mammals of the order
(from the Greek word
, "horny scale"). The one
, has three genera:
, which comprises four species living in Asia;
, which comprises two species living in Africa; and
, which comprises two species also living in Africa.
These species range in size from 30 to 100 cm (12 to 39 in). A number of
pangolin species are also known.
Pangolins have large, protective
scales covering their skin; they are the only known
with this feature. They live in hollow trees or
, depending on the species. Pangolins are
, and their diet consists of mainly
, which they capture using their long tongues. They tend to be solitary animals, meeting only to mate and produce a litter of one to three offspring, which are raised for about two years.
threatened by poaching
(for their meat and scales) and heavy
of their natural habitats, and are the most
mammals in the world.
Of the eight species of pangolin, four (
) are listed as vulnerable, two (
) are listed as endangered, and two (
) are listed as critically endangered on the
International Union for Conservation of Nature
Red List of Threatened Species
comes from the
, meaning "one who rolls up".
However, the modern name in
; whereas in
; and in the
(with the same meaning).
The etymologies of the three generic names
(Rafinesque, 1821), and
(Gray, 1865) are sometimes misunderstood.
(1758) invented the
apparently as a feminine singular form of the Latin masculine plural
name for a type of
, after the animal's strange appearance.
(1821) formed the Neo-Latin generic name
from the French term
, adopted by
(1763) after the reported local name
used in the
John Edward Gray
the first South African to write a
on mammals in 1832 (in which he described the species
Museum of Osteology
The physical appearance of a pangolin is marked by large hardened overlapping plate-like scales, which are soft on newborn pangolins, but harden as the animal matures.
They are made of
, the same material from which human
are made, and are structurally and compositionally very different from the scales of
The pangolin's scaled body is comparable in appearance to a
. It can curl up into a ball when threatened, with its overlapping scales acting as
, while it protects its face by tucking it under its tail. The scales are sharp, providing extra defense from predators.
Pangolins can emit a noxious-smelling chemical from
near the anus, similar to the spray of a
They have short legs, with sharp claws which they use for burrowing into
mounds and for climbing.
The tongues of pangolins are extremely long and – like those of the
tube-lipped nectar bat
– the root of the tongue is not attached to the
bone, but is in the
Large pangolins can extend their tongues as much as 40 cm (16 in), with a diameter of only 0.5 cm (0.20 in).
Most pangolins are
which use their well-developed sense of smell to find insects. The
is also active by day, while other species of pangolins spend most of the daytime sleeping, curled up into a ball.
pangolins live in hollow trees, whereas the ground-dwelling species dig tunnels to a depth of 3.5 m (11 ft).
Some pangolins walk with their front claws bent under the foot pad, although they use the entire foot pad on their rear limbs. Furthermore, some exhibit a
stance for some behaviour and may walk a few steps bipedally.
Pangolins are also good swimmers.
defending itself against
. Most of 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 are an important regulator of termite populations in their natural habitats.
Pangolins have very poor
, so they rely heavily on
. Pangolins also lack teeth; therefore they have evolved other physical characteristics to help them eat ants and termites. Their skeletal structure is sturdy and they have strong front legs that are useful for tearing into termite mounds.
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.
The structure of their tongue and stomach is key to aiding pangolins in obtaining and digesting insects. Their
causing ants and termites to stick to their long tongues when they are hunting through insect tunnels. Without teeth, pangolins also lack the ability to chew;
, they ingest small stones (
) which accumulate in their stomachs to help to grind up ants.
This part of their stomach is called the
, 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
, use their strong,
tails to hang from tree branches and strip away bark from the trunk, exposing insect nests inside.
Pangolins are solitary and meet only to mate. Males are larger than females, weighing up to 40% more. While the mating season is not defined, they typically mate once each year, usually during the summer or autumn. Rather than the males seeking out the females, males mark their location with urine or feces and the females will find them. If there is competition over a female, the males will use their tails as clubs to fight for the opportunity to mate with her.
periods differ by species, ranging from roughly 70 to 140 days.
African pangolin females usually give birth to a single offspring at a time, but the Asiatic species may give birth to from one to three.
Weight at birth is 80 to 450 g (2.8 to 15.9 oz) and the average length is 150 mm (5.9 in). At the time of birth, the scales are soft and white. After several days, they harden and darken to resemble those of an adult pangolin. During the vulnerable stage, the mother stays with her offspring in the burrow, nursing it, and wraps her body around it if she senses danger. 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. At one month, they first leave the burrow riding on the mother's back.
takes place around three months of age, at which stage the young begin to eat insects in addition to nursing. At two years of age, the offspring are sexually mature and are abandoned by the mother.
pup and its mother, a
island group. It is threatened by illegal poaching for the
where it is regarded as a luxury medicinal delicacy.
Pangolins are in high demand for
Chinese traditional medicine
because their scales are believed to have medicinal properties. Their meat is also considered a delicacy.
100,000 are estimated to be trafficked a year to China and Vietnam,
amounting to over one million over the past decade.
This makes it the most
in the world.
This, coupled with
, has led to a large decrease in the numbers of pangolins. Some species, such as
have become commercially extinct in certain ranges as a result of overhunting.
In November 2010, pangolins were added to the
Zoological Society of London
's list of evolutionarily distinct and endangered mammals.
All eight species of pangolin are classified by the
as threatened with extinction, while two are classified as
All pangolin species are currently listed under Appendix I of
which prohibits international trade, except when the product is intended for non-commercial purposes and a permit has been granted.
Pangolins are also hunted and eaten in many parts of Africa and are one of the more popular types of
, while local healers use the pangolin as a source of traditional medicine.
Confiscated black market pangolin scales, which are in high demand in
Chinese traditional medicine
, set to be destroyed by authorities in
Though pangolins are protected by an international ban on their trade, populations have suffered from illegal trafficking due to beliefs in
that their ground-up scales can stimulate
In the past decade, numerous seizures of illegally trafficked pangolin and pangolin meat have taken place in Asia.
In one such incident in April 2013, 10,000 kg (11 short tons) of pangolin meat were seized from a
vessel that ran aground in the
In another case in August 2016, an
man was arrested after police raided his home and found over 650 pangolins in freezers on his property.
The same threat is reported in many countries in Africa, especially
, where the animal is on the verge of extinction due to
The overexploitation comes from hunting pangolins for game meat and the reduction of their forest habitats due to deforestation caused by timber harvesting.
The pangolin are hunted as game meat for both medicinal purposes and food consumption.
A coat of
made of gilded pangolin scales from India, presented to
As a result of increasing threats to pangolins, mainly in the form of illegal, international trade in pangolin skin, scales, and meat, these species have received increasing conservation attention in recent years. For example, in 2014, the IUCN re-categorized all eight species of pangolin on its
Red List of Threatened Species
, and each species is now listed as being threatened with extinction.
Also, the IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group launched a global action plan to conserve pangolins, dubbed "Scaling up Pangolin Conservation" in July 2014. This action plan aims to improve all aspects of pangolin conservation with an added emphasis on combating poaching and trafficking of the animal, while educating communities in its importance.
Another suggested approach to fighting pangolin (and general wildlife) trafficking consists in "following the money" rather than "the animal", which aims to disrupt smugglers' profits by interrupting money flows. Financial intelligence gathering could thus become a key tool in protecting these animals, although this opportunity is often overlooked.
In 2018, a Chinese NGO launched the Counting Pangolins movement, calling for joint efforts to save the mammals from
Wildlife conservation group
has identified 159 smuggling routes used by pangolin traffickers and aims to shut these down.
Pangolins in an illegal wildlife market in
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.
Pangolins have significantly decreased immune responses due to a genetic dysfunction, making them extremely fragile.
They are susceptible to diseases such as
and the development of
in captivity, complications which can lead to an early death.
In addition, pangolins rescued from illegal trade often have a higher chance of being infected with parasites such as
, further lessening their chance for rehabilitation and reintroduction to the wild.
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.
Additionally, in regions such as Taiwan the introduction of Wildlife Rehabilitation Centers has greatly improved the survival of Pangolins. These centers have also helped to reveal the causes of death and injury among Taiwan's Pangolin population.
The idea of farming pangolins to reduce the amount being illegally trafficked is being explored with little success.
The third Saturday in February is promoted as World Pangolin Day by the conservation NPO Annamiticus.
made a public service announcement called
: Jackie Chan & Pangolins (Kung Fu Pangolin)
Pangolins were formerly classified with various other orders of ant-eating mammals, most notably
, which includes the true
, and the
which pangolins superficially resemble. Newer genetic evidence, however, indicates their closest living relatives are the
with which they form the clade
in a separate suborder of Cimolesta near
have classified the pangolins in the order
, together with several extinct groups indicated (†) below, though this idea has fallen out of favor since it was determined that cimolestids were not placental mammals.
A 2015 study has supported close affinities between pangolins and the extinct group
, as well as many former
itself was recovered as a far more basal mammal).
All species of living pangolin had been assigned to the genus
until the late 2000s, when research prompted the splitting of extant pangolins into three genera:
Phylogenetic position of the Pholidota in the context of the order-level cladogram of Boreoeutheria.
The cladogram has been reconstructed from mitochondrial and nuclear DNA and protein characters.
in defensive postureOrder Pholidotasensu lato (
Rose, Eberle & McKenna, 2004Species †
Rose, Eberle & McKenna, 2004Genus †
Fox, 1984Species †
Fox, 1984Genus †
Heissig, 1982Genus †
Rose, 1978Species †
Rose, 1978Family †
Rose & Lucas, 2000Genus †
Rose & Lucas, 2000Species †
Rose & Lucas, 2000Family †
Simpson, 1927Genus †
Rose, Bown & Simons, 1978Genus †
Tong & Wamg, 1997Species †
Tong & Wamg, 1997Genus †
Rose, Krishtalka & Stucky, 1991Species †
Rose, Krishtalka & Stucky, 1991Genus †
Simpson, 1959aSpecies †
Simpson, 1959aSpecies †
West, 1973cGenus †
Simpson, 1927 [
Douglass, 1906 non Ameghino, 1904;
Turnbull & Reed, 1967]
Douglass, 1904 [
Turnbull & Reed, 1967]Genus †
Jepsen, 1932 [
Rose et al., 1977]
Rose et al., 1978Species †
Gazin, 1952Species †
Jepsen, 1932Species †
Guthrie, 1967Genus †
Colbert, 1942Species †
Colbert, 1942Family †
Wortman, 1903Genus †
Rose, 1979Species †
Rose, 1979Genus †
Matthew, 1918Species †
Matthew, 1918Species †
Matthew, 1918Species †
Gingerich, 1989Genus †
Gunnell & Gingerich, 1993Species †
Gunnell & Gingerich, 1993Genus †
Secord et al., 2002Species †
Secord et al., 2002Genus †
Wortman, 1903Species †
Wortman, 1903 [
Osborn, 1904]Species †
Osborn, 1904 [
Simpson, 1931]Pholidota sensu strictoGenus †
Ameghino, 1904Species †
Ameghino, 1904Species †
(Storch & Martin, 1994) Gaudin, Emry & Wible, 2009 [
Storch & Martin, 1994]
Storch, 1981Species †
Gaudin, Emry & Wible, 2009Family †
Storch, 2003Genus †
Storch, 1978Species †
Szalay & Schrenk 1998 sensu Gaudin, Emry & Pogue, 2006Genus †
Gaudin, Emry & Pogue, 2006Species †
Emry, 1970Species †
Family ManidaeGray, 1821Genus †
Filhol, 1893 [
(Quenstedt, 1886) [
Quenstedt, 1886]Species †
Koenigswald, 1969Species †
Filhol, 1893Species †
Gray, 1873 (African pangolins)
Rafinesque, 1821 [
Rafinesque, 1815 (nomen nudum);
(P. tricuspis(Rafinesque, 1821) Rafinesque, 1821)
(P. tetradactyla(Linnaeus, 1766))Genus
Gray, 1865 (African ground pangolins)
(S. gigantea(Illiger, 1815))
(S. temmincki(Smuts, 1832))Subfamily
Linnaeus, 1758 [
Rafinesque, 1815 nomen nudum; PangolinGray, 1873;
Sundevall, 1843] (Asiatic pangolins)
Dubois, 1907)Subgenus (
) Linnaeus, 1758
(M. crassicaudataGray, 1827)
(M. pentadactylaLinnaeus, 1758)Subgenus (
) Pocock, 1924
(M. javanicaDesmarest, 1822)
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IUCN SSC Pangolin Specialist Group
ZSL Pangolin Conservation
Pangolin: Wildlife summary from the African Wildlife Foundation
Tree of Life of Pholidota
video of a pangolin
Proceedings of the Workshop on Trade and Conservation of Pangolins Native to South and Southeast Asia
in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
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