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Pangolins: Pholidota

Physical Characteristics

Pangolins are unique looking animals covered with large, horny, overlapping scales. They were often referred to as scaly anteaters in the past. Typically, there are eighteen rows of scales. The scales are often described as looking similar to shingles on a roof. The weight of the scales and skin make up about 20 percent of the total body weight of most species. Scale color can be dark brown, dark olive-brown, pale olive, yellow-brown, or yellowish.

These animals have a small, pointed head that is smooth. Their eyes and ears are small. The tail is broad and long, ranging from 10 to 35 inches (26 to 88 centimeters). Limbs are short, small, and powerful. The front feet are longer and stronger than the hind feet. There are five curved claws on each foot.

Only the snout, chin, throat, neck, sides of the face, inner sides of the limbs, and the belly are not covered with scales. In some species the outer surface of the forelegs are also not covered. The parts of the body that are without scales are covered lightly with hair. The hairs of the scaleless areas are whitish, pale brown to reddish brown, or blackish. The skin is grayish with a blue or pink color in some areas. In the Asian species, there are both Asian and African species, there are three or four hairs at the base of each scale. The African species have no hair at the base of the scales.

In size, pangolins have a head and body length combined of 12 to 35 inches (30 to 90 centimeters). Females are generally smaller than males.

These animals have no teeth. To grab food they have a long and muscular tongue, able to extend a great distance. In the smaller species, the tongue measures about 6 to 7 inches (16 to 18 centimeters). In larger species the tongue stretches about 16 inches (40 centimeters). The tongue is sticky and either round or flat, depending on the species.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsPangolins: Pholidota - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Pangolins And People, Ground Pangolin (manis Temminckii): Species Account - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, CONSERVATION STATUS