1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Pangolin

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PANGOLIN, the Malay name for one of the species of the scaly anteaters, which belong to the order Edentata (q.v.), and typify the family Manidae and the genus Manis. These animals, which might be taken for reptiles rather than mammals, are found in the warmer parts of Asia and throughout Africa. Pangolins range from 1 to 3 ft. in length, exclusive of the tail, which may be much shorter than or nearly twice the length of the rest of the animal. Their legs are short, so that the body is only a few inches off the ground; the ears are very small; and the tongue is long and worm-like, and used to capture ants. Their most striking character, however, is the coat of broad overlapping horny scales, which cover the whole animal, with the exception of the under surface of the body, and in some species the lower part of the tip of the tail. Besides the scales there are generally, especially in the Indian species, a number of isolated hairs, which grow between the scales, and are scattered over the soft and flexible skin of the belly. There are five toes on each foot, the claws on the first toe rudimentary, but the others, especially the third of the forefoot, long, curved, and laterally compressed. In walking the fore-claws are turned backwards and inwards, so that the weight of the animal rests on the back and outer surfaces, and the points are thus kept from becoming blunted. The skull is long, smooth and rounded, with imperfect zygomatic arches, no teeth of any sort, and, as in other ant-eating mammals, with the bony palate extending unusually far backwards towards the throat. The lower jaw consists of a pair of thin rod-like bones, welded to each other at the chin, and rather loosely attached to the skull by a joint which, instead of being horizontal, is tilted up at an angle of 45°, the outwardly-twisted condyles articulating with the inner surfaces of the long glenoid processes in a manner unique among mammals.

EB1911 Pangolin.jpg

White-bellied Pangolin (Manis tricuspis).

The genus Manis, which contains all the pangolins, may be conveniently divided into two groups, distinguished by geographical distribution and certain convenient, though not highly important, external characters. The Asiatic pangolins are characterized by having the central series of body-scales continued to the extreme end of the tail, by having many isolated hairs growing between the scales of the back, and by their small external ears. They all have a small naked spot beneath the tip of the tail, which is said to be of service as an organ of touch. There are three species: viz. Manis javanica, ranging from Burma, through the Malay Peninsula and Java, to Borneo; M. aurita, found in China, Formosa and Nepal; and the Indian Pangolin, M. pentadactyla, distributed over the whole of India and Ceylon. The African species have the central series of scales suddenly interrupted and breaking into two at a point about 2 or 3 in. from the tip of the tail; they have no hair between the scales, and no external ears. The following four species belong to this group: the long-tailed pangolin (M. macrura), with a tail nearly twice as long as its body, and containing as many as forty-six caudal vertebrae, nearly the largest number known among Mammals; the white-bellied pangolin (M. tricuspis), closely allied to the last, but with longer three lobed scales, and white belly hairs; and the short-tailed and giant pangolins (M. temmincki and gigantea), both of which have the tail covered entirely with scales. Those species with a naked patch on the under side of the tail can climb trees. The four species of the second group are found in West Africa, although some extend into south and eastern equatorial Africa.

(O. T.; R. L.*)