Toothless mammal of tropical Africa and Southeast Asia. They are long-tailed and covered with large, overlapping scales, except on the muzzle, sides of the head, throat, chest, and belly. They have an elongated skull and a long, extensible tongue. Pangolins measure 30–100 cm/12–39 in long, exclusive of the prehensile tail, which is about twice as long as the body.
Some are arboreal and others are terrestrial. All live on ants and termites. Pangolins comprise the order Pholidota. There is only one genus (Manis) and family Manidae, with seven species.
The lower gums of the mouth form two thickened horny ridges separated by a groove along which the cylindrical wormlike tongue slips in and out. The feet are strongly clawed, especially on the third toe of the forefoot, which is used in burrowing and in climbing. The extreme tip of the tail is free from scales and padded with thick skin. To deter predators, a powerful stench is emitted by the entire surface of the skin, and its bony overlapping scales protect it when it rolls up into a ball.
Species The single family, Manidae, may be divided into two groups, distinguished by geographical distribution. In the Asiatic group are three species: Manis javanica, ranging from Myanma to Borneo; M. pentadactyla, found in China, Taiwan and Nepal; and M. crassicaudata or the common Indian pangolin found over the whole of India and Sri Lanka. In the African group are the long-tailed pangolinM. longicaudata, which has a tail nearly as long as its body; the white-bellied pangolinM. tricuspis, the short-tailed pangolinM. temminckii, and the giant pangolinM. gigantea.
Temminck's pangolin (named after Konrad Jacob Temminck, 1778–1857) which is confined to the savannah regions of East Africa, is a terrestrial species. It grows about as big as a medium-sized pig and has a much broader and shorter tail than the other species. Its natural food consists of ants and termites. The young pangolins are carried about on the mother's tail.
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