Pangolin, or Scaly Anteater, a mammal native to southern Asia and Africa. The top of the pangolin's head and its back, tail, and legs are covered with horny, sharp-edged, overlapping scales. The pangolin usually defends itself by curling itself into a ball. (Pangolin is a Malay word meaning “roller.”)
Pangolin scales are formed from hair, and are thus quite different from reptile and fish scales (formed from skin). The face and underparts of the pangolin are soft and sparsely haired. The animal's overall color is brown or yellowish.
The pangolin is toothless. It eats only ants and termites and their eggs. To obtain food a pangolin destroys an ant or termite nest with its large, curved claws and flicks up the insects and eggs with its long, wormlike, sticky tongue. The claws also enable the animal to burrow rapidly into the ground for shelter.
Pangolins' bodies range in length from about one to three feet (30 to 90 cm). In most species, the tail is shorter than the body; in others, longer. Pangolins typically have only one young at a time. The mother sometimes carries her young on her tail.
Pangolins live on the ground or in trees. The Cape (or Temminck's) pangolin and the giant pangolin are ground-dwelling African species. The long-tailed (or black-bellied) pangolin and the African tree (or small-scaled) pangolin are tree-dwelling African species. The Indian pangolin, Chinese pangolin, and Malayan pangolin are ground-dwelling Asian species that occasionally climb trees. The Cape pangolin is endangered.
Pangolins make up the order Pholidota and the family Manidae. The Cape pangolin is Manis temmincki; giant, M. gigantea; long-tailed, M. tetradactyla, or M. longicaudata; African tree, M. tricuspis; Indian, M. crassicaudata; Chinese, M. pentadactyla; Malayan, M. javanica.