Do Pangolins Shed Their Scales

|

Pangolins do not shed their scales.

The scales are made of keratin, the same material that makes up human fingernails, and are tightly-knit and tough, providing protection from predators and infection.

When threatened, a pangolin can curl up in a tight ball, with only the sharp edges of its scales exposed, making it safe from predators

Pangolin scales are also used in traditional Chinese medicine to help with ailments ranging from lactation difficulties to arthritis, despite having no proven medicinal value

Unfortunately, pangolins are becoming increasingly threatened due to poaching and habitat loss, with up to 2.7 million pangolins being poached every year for their scales and meat

Conservation efforts are needed to protect pangolins and their habitats to ensure their survival for future generations.

related

Growth and Shedding of Pangolin Scales

Pangolins do not shed their scales like reptiles.

Instead, they grow new scales underneath their existing ones, which gradually push the old scales off. Here is a breakdown of how pangolin scales grow:

  • Pangolin scales are made of keratin, the same protein that forms human hair and fingernails.
  • The scales grow throughout the life of a pangolin, just like hair.
  • Scale edges are constantly filed down as pangolins dig burrows and tunnel through the soil in search of termites and ants.
  • Pangolin undersides do not have scales and are covered with sparse fur.
  • Pangolin scales provide good defense against predators.

    When threatened, pangolins can quickly curl into a ball, protecting their defenseless undersides.
  • Pangolin scales are also used in traditional Chinese medicine, despite having no proven medicinal value.

Climate change and habitat loss are major threats to pangolins, and conservation efforts are needed to protect them and their habitats.

related

Scale Regeneration Process

The biological process of scale replacement in pangolins involves the growth of new scales underneath the existing ones, which gradually push the old scales off. Here are some factors that trigger the growth of new scales:

  • Pangolin scales grow throughout the life of a pangolin, just like hair.
  • The edges of the scales are constantly filed down as pangolins dig burrows and tunnel through the soil in search of termites and ants.
  • Pangolin scales provide good defense against predators.

    When threatened, pangolins can quickly curl into a ball, protecting their defenseless undersides.
  • Pangolin scales are also used in traditional Chinese medicine, despite having no proven medicinal value.

Pangolin scales are made of keratin, the same protein that forms human hair and fingernails. The scales form a durable armor whose hierarchical structure offers an avenue towards high-performance bio-inspired materials design

The overlapping structure and mechanical properties of the keratinous scales of pangolins have been studied to understand their fracture behavior and toughness.

related

Scale Composition and Durability

Pangolin scales are made of keratin, the same protein that forms human hair and fingernails. The scales are tightly-knit and tough, providing protection from predators and infection. Here are some unique characteristics of pangolin scales:

  • Pangolin scales are flexible and can roll up into a tight ball, protecting the pangolin’s vulnerable underside.
  • The edges of the scales are constantly filed down as pangolins dig burrows and tunnel through the soil in search of termites and ants.
  • Pangolin scales are also used in traditional Chinese medicine, despite having no proven medicinal value.
  • The scales are made of both alpha and beta keratin, which makes them harder than human fingernails.
  • The overlapping structure and mechanical properties of the keratinous scales of pangolins have been studied to understand their fracture behavior and toughness.

Pangolin scales are a unique and durable form of armor that provide protection for these fascinating animals.

However, the use of pangolin scales in traditional medicine and habitat loss due to human activities are major threats to their survival, and conservation efforts are needed to protect them and their habitats.

related

Scales in Pangolin Conservation

Understanding pangolin scales and their growth is significant for conservation efforts, especially in minimizing harm to pangolins during handling or rehabilitation.

Here are some reasons why:

  • Pangolin scales are a unique and durable form of armor that provide protection for these fascinating animals.
  • Pangolin scales are made of keratin, the same protein that forms human hair and fingernails.
  • Pangolin scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine, despite having no proven medicinal value.
  • Pangolin scales are also used in other cultures for various purposes, such as bulletproofing.
  • Pangolins are threatened by habitat loss and poaching, and conservation efforts are needed to protect them and their habitats.
  • Handling or rehabilitation of pangolins should be done with care to avoid causing harm to the animals, including minimizing stress and avoiding injury to their scales.

Understanding the significance of pangolin scales and their growth is crucial for conservation efforts to protect these unique and fascinating animals.

By minimizing harm to pangolins during handling or rehabilitation, we can help ensure their survival for future generations.

Traditional Uses of Scales

Pangolin scales have been used for centuries in traditional medicine and cultural practices in various regions.

However, the use of pangolin scales has contributed to the decline of pangolin populations, which are now threatened with extinction.

Here are some examples of traditional medicinal and cultural uses of pangolin scales in different regions:

In Ghana:

  • Scales were predominantly used to treat rheumatism, followed by spiritual protection, convulsions, and financial rituals.

In Vietnam:

  • The most popular uses for pangolin scales among practitioners were for lactation, abscesses, and circulation.

In Sierra Leone:

  • The eyes, not the scales, had the highest IAR value and are only used to remedy certain infectious and parasitic diseases.

In China:

  • Pangolin scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including excessive nervousness, hysterical crying in children, women possessed by devils and ogres, malarial fever, and deafness.
  • Pangolin scales are also used to promote lactation in women and reduce swelling and pain.
  • Fresh scales are never used, but dried scales are roasted, ashed, cooked in oil, butter, vinegar, boy’s urine, or roasted with earth or oyster-shells.

The use of pangolin scales in traditional medicine and cultural practices has contributed to the decline of pangolin populations, which are now threatened with extinction.

Conservation efforts are needed to protect pangolins and their habitats, and to reduce the demand for pangolin products.

Ethical Considerations

The harvesting of pangolin scales for traditional medicine raises ethical considerations and has potential consequences for pangolin conservation.

Here are some points to consider:

Ethical considerations:

  • Pangolin scales are used in traditional medicine despite having no proven medicinal value.
  • The use of pangolin scales contributes to the decline of pangolin populations, which are now threatened with extinction.
  • The illegal trade in pangolin scales involves cruelty to animals and often involves organized crime.

Potential consequences for pangolin conservation:

  • The demand for pangolin scales and other pangolin products is a major threat to pangolin populations, and conservation efforts are needed to protect them and their habitats.
  • The illegal trade in pangolin scales and other pangolin products undermines conservation efforts and contributes to the decline of pangolin populations.
  • The use of pangolin scales in traditional medicine and cultural practices perpetuates the demand for pangolin products and contributes to the decline of pangolin populations.

Overall, the harvesting of pangolin scales for traditional medicine raises ethical considerations and has potential consequences for pangolin conservation.

Conservation efforts are needed to protect pangolins and their habitats, and to reduce the demand for pangolin products.

In conclusion, public education campaigns, law enforcement, and alternative livelihoods for people who rely on pangolin trade are some strategies that could help reduce the demand for pangolin products and protect pangolins and their habitats.

Helpful Resources