4. Physical Description
Pangolins are animals living in Asia and Africa that are known for their unique appearance. A pangolin has overlapping scales that are like plates and are large and hard. The scales are however soft in newborn pangolins. The main component of these scales is keratin which is also the component of human hair and nails. The scales in the body of a pangolin make it appear like the globe artichoke or the pine cone. A pangolin can curl up into a ball whenever it faces threat, and its overlapping scales act as armor. Scales are therefore the protectors of these animals since they are sharp and can drive away predators. Pangolins also have short legs having sharp claws. Their tongues are very long and are specialized for catching insects.
Pangolins feed on insects, therefore, they are insectivorous. The most common insects that make the diet of most pangolins are termites and ants. Other insects including larvae act as supplements for the diet. Despite the existence of various kinds of insects, pangolins tend to consume particular species of insects (one or two species). Feeding of pangolins depends heavily on their sense of smell and hearing because they have a poor sense of vision. They have strong front claws on their legs that they use in digging into ground, trees, and vegetation to get their prey. Their long tongues also assist them in probing inside the tunnels for insects and retrieve them. Since pangolins do not have teeth, they ingest small stones that help them in grinding up insects in the stomach. The other mode of feeding that some pangolins like tree pangolins use is hanging from tree branches (using strong tails) and removing bark from the trunk to expose the nest of insects inside.
2. Habitat and Range
Of the eight extant species of pangolins, four species are found in Asia and four in Africa. Pangolins live mostly in sandy soils, the habitat where they can effortlessly burrow to get food. They dig underground tunnels to a depth measuring eleven feet. Other animals are also most likely to create burrows in the sandy soils, and the pangolins often take advantage of these holes to get their prey.
Most pangolin species are nocturnal and their strong sense of smell helps them to find insects in the dark. The species of pangolin that is active during the day is the long-tailed pangolin. The style of walking for some pangolins involves bending their front claws under the foot pad. Some of them can also walk bipedally for some distance. Also, pangolins have the ability to swim very well.