© SAKCHAI LALIT, AP
Habitat: throughout Africa and Asia
Status: varies from Least Concern to Endangered, depending on species
Meet the creature that looks just like a walking pine cone. This is the Pangolin (order Pholidota) which is otherwise known as a Scaly Anteater – can you tell why?
There are eight extant species of this bizarre creature that all share the same characteristic artichoke-esque appearance. Those scaly plates are made of keratin – the same material that human fingernails are made of. When a pangolin is born, the plates are quite soft but as it matures they become increasingly harder. Pangolins can curl up into a ball and tuck their heads under their scales (which are actually very sharp) to protect themselves from any danger. As you might imagine, this is a similar predatory defense as used by the armadillo. And just in case the predator isn’t deterred by a rock-hard meal, the Pangolin has the ability to emit a noxious-smelling acid from their anal glands. That oughta send ’em on their merry way!
Much like anteaters, Pangolins also have super long tongues that they use to pull out termites and ants from inside their mounds. A pangolin can extend its tongue 40 centimetres (16 in), with a diameter of only 0.5 centimetres (0.20 in)! These creatures actually don’t even have teeth; they use their powerful front claws to dig deep into the insects’ homes and then slurp those suckers right up. Delishhhhh!