AskDefine | Define pangolin

Dictionary Definition

pangolin n : toothless mammal of southern Africa and Asia having a body covered with horny scales and a long snout for feeding on ants and termites [syn: scaly anteater, anteater]

User Contributed Dictionary



From Malay tenggiling


  1. The scaly anteater; any of several long-tailed, scale-covered mammals of the order Pholidota of tropical Africa and Asia


  • Finnish: muurahaiskäpy

Extensive Definition

Pangolins () or scaly anteaters are mammals in the order Pholidota. There is only one extant family (Manidae) and one genus (Manis) of pangolins, comprising eight species. There are also a number of extinct taxa. Pangolins have large scales on their skin and are the only mammals to be so. They are found in tropical regions of Africa and Asia. The name "pangolin" derives from the Malay word pengguling ("something that rolls up"). Pangolins are nocturnal animals, using their well developed sense of smell to find insects. The long-tailed pangolin is also active by day. Pangolins spend most of the daytime sleeping, curled up into a ball.
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 that their closest living relatives are the Carnivora, with which they form a clade, the Ferae. Some paleontologists have classified the pangolins in the order Cimolesta, together with several extinct groups.

Physical description and behavior

The physical appearance of pangolins 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 is often compared to a walking 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 razor-sharp, and provide extra defense for this reason. The front claws are so long that they are unsuited for walking, and 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 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 cm to 100 cm (12 to 39 inches). 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 from 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 cm (16 inches), with a diameter of only 0.5 cm (1/4 inch).


Pangolin are hunted and eaten in many parts of Africa and it is one of the more popular types of bush meat. Pangolins are also in great demand in China because their meat is considered a delicacy and some Chinese believe pangolin scales reduce swelling, promote blood circulation and help breast-feeding women produce milk. This, coupled with deforestation, has led to a large decrease in the numbers of Giant Pangolins.
Pangolin populations have suffered from illegal trafficking. In May 2007, for example, Guardian Unlimited reported that 31 pangolins were found aboard an abandoned vessel off the coast of China. The boat contained some 5,000 endangered animals.
The Guardian recently 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 cook 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.'"
On November 10, 2007, Thai customs officers announced that they had rescued over 100 pangolins as the animals were being smuggled out of the country, en route to China, where they were to be sold for cooking.


pangolin in Afrikaans: Ietermagog
pangolin in Arabic: أم قرفة (حيوان)
pangolin in Min Nan: Lâ-lí
pangolin in Catalan: Pangolí
pangolin in Czech: Luskouni
pangolin in Danish: Skældyr
pangolin in German: Schuppentiere
pangolin in Spanish: Manis
pangolin in Esperanto: Maniso
pangolin in French: Pangolin
pangolin in Hebrew: פנגולינאים
pangolin in Croatian: Ljuskavci
pangolin in Ido: Pangolino
pangolin in Italian: Manis
pangolin in Lithuanian: Skujuočiai
pangolin in Lingala: Nkákoló
pangolin in Dutch: Schubdieren
pangolin in Japanese: センザンコウ
pangolin in Norwegian: Skjelldyr
pangolin in Portuguese: Pangolim
pangolin in Russian: Панголины
pangolin in Simple English: Pangolin
pangolin in Sundanese: Peusing
pangolin in Finnish: Muurahaiskävyt
pangolin in Swedish: Myrkottar
pangolin in Thai: นิ่ม
pangolin in Vietnamese: tê tê
pangolin in Chinese: 穿山甲属
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