Pangolin at the San Diego Zoo

special exhibit

special exhibit

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Pangolins—an endangered species

Courtesy of Wikipedia

The physical appearance of a pangolin 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’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]

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.

For more information on Pangolins go to:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pangolin

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