Friday, September 30, 2011

Interesting Animals: Pangolin

A member of one of the several species of pangolin
The pangolin, also called the scaly anteater, is a quite unusual creature: appearing part armadillo, part anteater, and part sloth. The seven pangolin species are found in Africa (four species) and Asia (three species). Unfortunately, four of these species are endangered, including all of the Asiatic species. Like anteaters, the pangolin exclusively eats insects such as ants and termites, using their sturdy forelegs and heads to dig for them and their long tongues to collect them. Like most species that specialize in such tiny animals, the pangolin has no teeth. When threatened, these unusual animals will curl up into a ball for protection. Habitat varies by species, with some living in trees while others prefer the ground. They are normally nocturnal and solitary. The pangolin has poor eyesight, but good hearing and sense of smell. The plates on their body, which are used for defense and are actually fairly sharp, make up a significant portion of the animal's body weight.

The pangolin was once classified with the armadillos and anteaters, but they are actually rather distantly related and the similarities in appearance and behavior are most likely convergent. Now, pangolins are classified in Order Pholidota while armadillos, anteaters, and sloths have been grouped into Order Xenarthra.

Sources are the African Wildlife Foundation and the University of California Museum of Paleontology. Image is from Wikimedia Commons under a creative commons license.

2 comments:

  1. Pholidota is closely related to Carnivora.

    So these things are more closely related to dogs and cats than giant anteaters.

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  2. Anteaters, pangolins, and armadillos used to all be classified together because of their lack of teeth. Not anymore.

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