What does the pangolin eat

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Pangolins are insectivorous animals that eat a variety of ants and termite species, as well as larvae and a few other insects.

They locate their prey through scent-based foraging and use their forefeet to rip open nests. Pangolins are also known to eat soft-bodied invertebrates. 

In captivity, pangolins are fed a diet that includes eggs, meat (ground beef, horse meat, fish), milk, milk powder, orchid leaves, carrots, yeast, multivitamins, and insects. 

However, pangolins are difficult to maintain in captivity because of their specialized diet and often reject unfamiliar insect species or become ill when fed foreign food.

diet of different pangolin species

Pangolins are carnivorous animals that feed on a variety of ant and termite specie.

They are insectivores and eat ants, termites, and insect larvae.

Ants and termites are suitable prey as they have centralized nest structures and large populations, which make them easy to locate.

Insect larvae are also an important source of nutrition, especially for arboreal pangolin species.

Pangolins have a well-developed sense of smell, which they use to locate insect nests.

They do not have teeth, so they pick up food with their sticky tongues.

It is important to note that pangolins are difficult to maintain in captivity because of their specialized diet.

For most pangolins that move from the wild to captivity, it is important to provide a diet that allows a smooth adaptation to the new environment.

The diet under human care contains fewer insects, with carbohydrates, fat, and non-protein substances much higher than the diet in the wild.

Therefore, it is crucial to pay more attention to the diet of pangolins under human care and confiscated, rescued wild pangolins.

role of ants and termites as primary food sources for pangolins

Pangolins are carnivorous insectivores that primarily consume various species of ants, termites, and insect larvae.

Ants and termites are suitable prey as they have centralized nest structures and large populations, and pangolins find these tiny prey through scent-based foraging.

In addition to ants and termites, a pangolin’s diet includes insect larvae, bees (pupae), flies, earthworms, crickets, and some other arthropods, sometimes also sand, small grains, and grass during feeding.

Although the natural pangolin diet is quite specialized, they might not have a particular preference for ant species.

The literature reported on 18 kinds of food records of Manis pentadactyla in the wild; these included nine species of termites and nine species of ants.

Even though pangolins are identified as ant and termite eaters, they also feed on earthworms, cockroaches, and beetles, as evident from faecal matter.

Pangolins use their long, sticky tongues to extract termites and ants from their nests for a tasty meal.

How environmental factors influence Pangolins food choices?

Pangolins’ food choices are influenced by various environmental factors.

Here are some factors that affect their food choices:

  • Availability of prey: The availability of prey is one of the main factors that determine the presence and habitat choice of pangolins.

    However, the availability of prey varies depending on the species1.
  • Habitat: The occurrence of pangolins is greatly influenced by various habitat covariates such as canopy coverage, soil type, aspect, and ground vegetation coverage, distance to water source, human settlements, agricultural land, and anthropogenic factors such as poaching1356.
  • Nutrition: Studies have suggested that pangolin health is related to nutrition and parasite infection.

    For example, some pangolins suffer from gastrointestinal diseases and die of malnutrition because the artificial food provided is not suitable for their digestive system.

    There have also been intestinal parasites and nutritional failures caused by prolonged starvation2.
  • Ability to adapt to different foods: Pangolins have the ability to adapt to different foods, but their preference may vary with environmental conditions.

    Pangolins under human care exhibited an increased capacity for carbohydrate and fatty acid metabolism and short-chain fatty acid synthesis, but reduced ability to metabolize exogenous substances.

    This may be directly related to the fact that they live in different environments and are exposed to different substances2.

In summary, environmental factors such as the availability of prey, habitat, nutrition, and the ability to adapt to different foods influence pangolins’ food choices.

How pangolins adapt to changes in their food especially in regions where their primary prey may become scarce?

Pangolins are highly adapted to a diet of ants and termites, which they locate using their well-developed sense of smell.

They may also supplement their diet with other invertebrates such as bee larvae, flies, worms, earthworms, and crickets.

Since pangolins have a specialist diet, they are difficult to maintain in captivity as they often reject unfamiliar insect species or become ill when fed foreign food.

In regions where their primary prey may become scarce, pangolins may compensate by shifting their diet to other available prey.

For example, a study found that Temminck’s pangolins did not increase the diversity of their prey in response to a drop in prey abundance, but instead increased their energy intake by spending more time above ground.

Pangolins have evolved and adapted over time to better survive and prosper in their habitat and surroundings.

They have a gizzard-like stomach that is specially adapted for grinding food, and to assist the grinding, they consume small stones and sand.

However, despite their adaptations, pangolins face many challenges, including habitat loss and poaching for illegal wildlife trade, which have made them one of the most threatened groups of mammals in the world.

importance of a pangolin’s diet in maintaining its health and survival?

Pangolins are insectivores and primarily eat ants and termites, supplemented by a variety of other invertebrates such as bee larvae, worms, earthworms, and crickets.

Their diet is important for maintaining their health and survival.

Studies have suggested that pangolin health is related to nutrition and parasite infection.

Pangolins that are unable to eat their natural diet may suffer from gastrointestinal diseases and die of malnutrition because the artificial food provided is not suitable for their digestive system.

Even pangolins that are able to eat artificial food on their own also die of gastric perforation disease due to food inadaptability.

Therefore, it is important to provide a diet that allows a smooth adaptation for most pangolins that move from the wild to captivity.

In the wild, pangolins play an important role in their ecosystem by controlling pest populations.

One adult pangolin can consume more than 70 million insects every year, and they have special muscles that seal their nostrils and ears shut while eating to protect themselves from the attacking insects they eat.