Are Pangolins Mammals

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Yes, pangolins are mammals. They are the only mammals wholly-covered in scales, which are made of keratin, the same material that makes up human fingernails and hair

Pangolins are about the size of a house cat, with small heads, long snouts, and thick tails. They feed mainly on termites and ants, and they have long, sticky tongues that are longer than their bodies, which they use to pick up food

Pangolins are native to Africa and Asia, and they can be found in woodland and savanna habitats.

The Taxonomy of Pangolins

Pangolins are classified in the order Pholidota, which is a small group of mammals that feed mostly on ants. The only family within the order Pholidota is Manidae, which includes all eight species of pangolins

Pangolins are further classified into three genera: Manis, Phataginus, and Smutsia

The genus Manis includes four species of Asian pangolins, while the genus Phataginus includes two species of African pangolins, and the genus Smutsia includes two species of African pangolins

Pangolins are placed in the class Mammalia, which is a diverse group of animals that share certain characteristics, such as having hair or fur, mammary glands, and three middle ear bones

Pangolins are unique among mammals in that they are covered in tough, overlapping scales made of keratin, which is the same material that makes up human fingernails and hair

The scales protect pangolins from predators, and they also help them dig burrows and tunnel through soil in search of ants and termites

Pangolins are not closely related to any other group of mammals, and they are considered to be one of the most evolutionarily distinct groups of mammals.

Unique Mammalian Features of Pangolins

Pangolins exhibit several distinctive mammalian characteristics despite their reptilian-like appearance.

These characteristics include:

  • Fur: Although pangolins are covered in tough, overlapping scales made of keratin, they do have fur between their scales, especially in Asian species. The fur helps to insulate the pangolin’s body and keep it warm in cooler environments.
  • Mammary glands: Like all mammals, pangolins have mammary glands that produce milk to nourish their young. Pangolin mothers nurse their young for several months before the young are able to eat solid food.
  • Live births: Pangolins give birth to live young, which is a characteristic of all mammals. Pangolin mothers typically give birth to one or two offspring at a time, and the young are born relatively well-developed and able to move around on their own.

Despite these mammalian characteristics, pangolins are unique among mammals in that they are covered in tough, overlapping scales made of keratin, which protect them from predators and help them dig burrows and tunnel through soil in search of ants and termites.

Pangolins and Evolutionary History

Pangolins are a unique group of mammals that have adapted over time to their specialized ecological niche.

Here are some key points about the evolutionary history of pangolins:

  • Pangolins are classified in the order Pholidota, which is a small group of mammals that feed mostly on ants.
  • The eight modern species of pangolins began to diverge from their shared ancestor about 60 million years ago, which diverged from insectivores and other placental mammals.
  • Combining mitogenomic and nuclear gene datasets, it has been estimated that extant pangolins were an ancient mammalian lineage of Upper Eocene.
  • Although pangolins share many adaptive traits through convergent evolution with South American anteaters, molecular phylogenies have shown that pangolins are not closely related to any other group of mammals.
  • Pangolins are considered to be one of the most evolutionarily distinct groups of mammals.
  • As an evolutionary consequence of being covered by scales, it is plausible that the pangolin immune system evolved differently than in other mammals.

Pangolins have a long evolutionary history that has allowed them to develop unique adaptations, such as their tough, overlapping scales made of keratin, which protect them from predators and help them dig burrows and tunnel through soil in search of ants and termites

Despite their distinctive features, pangolins are still classified as mammals and share many characteristics with other members of this diverse group of animals, such as having fur, mammary glands, and giving birth to live young.

Pangolin Reproduction and Parenting

Pangolins reproduce sexually and exhibit a typical mammalian life cycle. They are dioecious organisms, meaning male sex organs are found only on males and female sex organs are only found on females

Pangolins are solitary animals, only interacting with other pangolins during mating. There is no specific mating season, but most animals typically mate once a year during the summer and fall months

To attract a mate, males will mark their location with urine or feces, letting the females use their strong sense of smell to locate them. If multiple males are in the same area as a female, they can fight over her, using their strong tails as clubs.

Once the female has chosen a mate, the two will mate for three to five days. The gestation period differs based on species but typically ranges between 70 to 140 days

While African pangolin females give birth to a single offspring, Asiatic species give birth from one to three. Pangolin mothers nurture their young in nesting burrows

The babies are born with soft scales that harden after two days, but they will ride on their mothers’ tails until they’re weaned at about three months

During this time, they continue to nurse but are also able to consume termites and ants. The mothers care for their young until they fully develop into adults at about 2 years of age and then abandon them. Pangolins reach sexual maturity at two years.

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Pangolins and Milk Production

Female pangolins produce milk to nourish their offspring, which is a typical mammalian trait.

Here are some key points about pangolin milk production:

  • Pangolin mothers nurse their young for several months before the young are able to eat solid food.
  • Pangolin milk production appears to drop to a level that is insufficient to support the growth of the young after about four months.
  • Pangolin mothers care for their young until they fully develop into adults at about 2 years of age and then abandon them.
  • Pangolin scales contain the same protein found in human hair and fingernails, but there is no evidence that they increase lactation for nursing mothers.
  • The lactation period of Sunda pangolins is approximately four months.

Overall, pangolin milk production aligns with other mammals in that female pangolins produce milk to nourish their young.

However, the lactation period and milk production levels differ based on species and are adapted to the unique ecological niche of pangolins.

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Pangolins in the Mammalian Phylogeny

Genetic and anatomical evidence supports pangolins as mammals and provides insights into their place in the mammalian family tree.

Here are some key points:

  • Pangolins are classified in the order Pholidota, which is a small group of mammals that feed mostly on ants.
  • Pangolins are considered to be one of the most evolutionarily distinct groups of mammals.
  • Pangolins are not closely related to any other group of mammals, and they are considered to be one of the most evolutionarily distinct groups of mammals.
  • Pangolins share many characteristics with other mammals, such as having fur, mammary glands, and giving birth to live young.
  • Pangolins exhibit several distinctive mammalian characteristics despite their reptilian-like appearance, such as fur, mammary glands, and live births.
  • Genetic studies have confirmed deep divergence among Asian and African pangolins occurring not later than the Oligocene-Miocene boundary ca.

    23 million years ago (Ma).
  • Based on large mitogenomic distances among the three genera (Manis, Smutsia, and Phataginus) and numerous morphological traits unique to Phataginus, the subfamily Phatagininae subfam.

    nov.

    has been proposed.
  • Within Manidae, the extant species are divided into three well-supported, monophyletic genera, Manis for the Asian pangolins, Smutsia for the African ground pangolins, and Phataginus for the African tree pangolins.
  • The fossil record of pangolins would seem to support a European origin for the modern forms, with subsequent dispersal into sub-Saharan African and then to southern Asia.

Genetic and anatomical evidence supports pangolins as mammals and provides insights into their place in the mammalian family tree.

While pangolins are unique among mammals in many ways, they share many characteristics with other members of this diverse group of animals.

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Comparative Anatomy

Pangolins share many anatomical features with other mammals, which reaffirms their status as mammals.

Here are some key points:

  • Pangolins have fur between their scales, which helps to insulate their bodies and keep them warm in cooler environments.
  • Pangolins have mammary glands that produce milk to nourish their young, which is a characteristic of all mammals.
  • Pangolins give birth to live young, which is another characteristic of all mammals.
  • Pangolins have a typical mammalian skeletal structure, including a shoulder girdle, ribcage, and spine.
  • Pangolins have a typical mammalian digestive system, including a stomach, small intestine, and large intestine.
  • Pangolins have a typical mammalian respiratory system, including lungs and a diaphragm.
  • Pangolins have a typical mammalian reproductive system, including male and female sex organs and a gestation period.
  • Pangolins have a typical mammalian immune system, although their immune system may have evolved differently due to their unique scales.

Pangolins share many anatomical features with other mammals, which reaffirms their status as mammals.

In conclusion, pangolins are unique among mammals in many ways, they share many characteristics with other members of this diverse group of animals.

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