Manis crassicaudataIndian pangolin

Geographic Range

Indian pangolins (Manis crassicaudata) populations range across southern Asia. Their habitat ranges from the eastern portions of the Punjab and Sindh regions of Pakistan, through almost all of India and Bangladesh, to northern Burma and the southern portion of the Yunnan province in China. They live as far south as Sri Lanka and as far north as the southern reaches of Nepal. ("Indian Pangolin | Manis crassicaudata", 2019; Mahmood, et al., 2001; Mohapatra and Panda, 2014)

Habitat

Indian pangolins are well adapted to desert regions and prefer barren, hilly areas. They reside in subtropical thorn forests as well as the Salt Range. Their habitat extends up to 2,500 ft above sea level. Overall, they prefer soil that is soft and semi-sandy – suitable for digging burrows. Indian pangolins have also been shown to survive in various types of tropical forests, open land, grasslands, and in close proximity to villages. They tolerate this range of habitats so long as they have a proper supply of ants, termites, and freshwater nearby. ("Indian Pangolin | Manis crassicaudata", 2019; Mahmood, et al., 2001)

  • Range elevation
    0 to 762 m
    0.00 to 2500.00 ft

Physical Description

The total body length of fully grown Indian pangolins ranges from 45 to 147 cm. Their tails can be 33 to 45 cm long. Adult Indian pangolins weigh anywhere from 8 to 17 kg, with the highest recorded weight at 20 kg. Newborns generally weigh around 0.23 kg and measure at 30 to 43 cm in total length. A unique feature of this species is their blonde striated scales, with 11 to 13 rows of 280 to 305 scales covering their dorsal sides and their fore and hind limbs. These scales are composed of keratin and make up 1/4 to 1/3 of the body mass of Indian pangolins. The scales gradually increase in size and decrease in number when moving from the head along the body to the tail. These scales are used as a defense mechanism against predators and harsh environmental conditions. While they do not have any teeth, they do have a long tongue, which they use to capture prey. Their tongues extend an average of 25 cm from their mouths and measure 42.5 cm in total length – around 37% of the body length of an average adult. This is relatively short when compared to other Manis species. Males are typically larger and weigh more than females, but this can be highly variable. Each of their four limbs have soft, spongy pads on the palmar sides of their feet with strong claws on each of their digits - five on each limb. Three of these digits are specialized for digging burrows. (Irshad, et al., 2016; Roberts, 1997)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    8 to 20 kg
    17.62 to 44.05 lb
  • Range length
    48 to 147 cm
    18.90 to 57.87 in
  • Average length
    58 cm
    22.83 in
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    6.923 W
    AnAge

Reproduction

There is limited information about the mating patterns of Indian pangolins, but it is believed that their mating period is between July and October. Males have been observed to compete with other males over female pangolins. This mating period lasts from 3 to 5 days. During this time, males occupy the same burrow as the females with which they are breeding - this is in contrast to the normal solitary behavior of pangolins. (Mahmood, et al., 2015)

Female Indian pangolins have five estrous cycles lasting 11 to 26 days each. They have relatively short gestation periods compared to other pangolin species, gestating young for an average of 65 to 70 days, but sometimes upwards of 80 days. Other closely-related Manis species have gestation periods of over 100 days. Indian pangolins usually give birth in late November and December. (Hua, et al., 2015)

  • Breeding interval
    Indian pangolins breed once yearly.
  • Breeding season
    November to December
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 3
  • Average number of offspring
    1
    AnAge
  • Range gestation period
    65 to 80 days
  • Average gestation period
    75 days
  • Range weaning age
    2 to 4 weeks
  • Average time to independence
    6 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 to 2 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    1 years
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1 to 2 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    1 years

Female Indian pangolins generally stay with their young in the same burrow, with some reports showing that males also remain in the same burrow to help raise young. Indian pangolins breastfeed their young when the offspring are developing. This lasts on average 6 months, after which the offspring are weaned and begin to eat ants and termites. (Cen, et al., 2010; Hua, et al., 2015)

Lifespan/Longevity

During their juvenile stage, Indian pangolins have soft scales and are thus extremely vulnerable to attacks. Adult females take their young out of the burrow to hunt for food. During these outings, offspring hang onto the tails of their mothers for safety. If a mother feels threatened, she will curl up into a ball, wrapping up her offspring underneath her. During this time, juvenile Indian pangolins grow in size and weight, with the scales on their backs also hardening over time. After around 6 months, juvenile pangolins weigh around 2.5 kg. They are believed to reach sexual maturity after 1 to 2 years.

Little is known about the lifespan of Indian pangolins, mainly due to the widespread act of poaching resulting in early deaths. The specialized diet and foraging habits of Indian pangolins also severely limit their success in captivity. The oldest pangolin kept in captivity lived to be over 19 years old. It is believed that they can live for over 20 years in the wild. (Hua, et al., 2015; "Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) longevity, ageing, and life history", 2009; Ma, et al., 2018; Mahmood, et al., 2015)

Behavior

Indian pangolins are mostly nocturnal and a majority of their activity occurs during the night. During the day they are most often hiding deep within their den or in a dark corner or tree to rest. While resting, they curl up into a ball with their ventral sides facing down and their limbs tucked under their bodies. During the night, when Indian pangolins are active, they spend their time foraging for food or digging their burrows. They use their forelimbs to dig up dirt and their hind limbs to remove dirt from the dig site. To pursue food they will walk around on the forest floor, walking with their large front claws tucked underneath the soles of their feet. They also climb up trees, using their strong foreclaws to grip the tree and their tails for support when moving up or down.

In order to defend themselves, Indian pangolins will curl into an armored ball with their limbs tucked into the center of the ball. Only the scales of the body and tail are exposed. When in this position they are extremely difficult to attack, as their scales are extremely keratinous. They are very strong so most organisms cannot unravel them from this position. If they are grabbed by the tail, Indian pangolins will rotate in both directions to try to break free. They may also produce bad-smelling secretions from their anal glands to scare off predators. They also give off hissing noises when stressed or attacked.

Indian pangolins, like other pangolin species, are generally solitary and will not share burrows with others of their species. However, during mating there is an exception where they briefly share their burrows with their mate. This continue until shortly after offspring are born, after which males take a much less active role in raising their young. Females continue to take care of their young until they are independent. (Mohapatra and Panda, 2014)

Communication and Perception

The only sound that Indian pangolins are known to produce is a loud hissing noise. This noise is emitted when they are aggravated by predators, during mating, or during early mother-offspring interactions. They are known to leave scent markers by urinating on trees to mark their territory bounds. (Mohapatra and Panda, 2014)

Food Habits

Indian pangolins use their keen sense of smell to identify and track prey. They are myrmecophagous, meaning their diet consists mainly of ants and termites, but they will also eat beetles. Indian pangolins consume all life stages of their prey, although they prefer eggs. There has also been evidence of worm skins in the stomach contents of some Indian pangolin specimens, indicating that they occasionally eat worms. They also consume small amounts of plant material as well as sand, clay, and stone, to form gastroliths in their gizzards.

Indian pangolins mainly hunt for food on the ground, but they will also go into trees to pursue arboreal ants. They use their three middle claws on their forelimbs to dig into ant and termite mounds. They dig up dirt and use their hind legs to push out the dirt. This breaks up the ant mounds or the termite combs into small pieces, forcing the insects out. Indian pangolins will then use their sticky tongues to lap up prey - similar to how they drink water. Their saliva is rather adhesive, so the insects they eat stick to their tongues. Because they have no teeth, Indian pangolins grind their food in their gizzards - a portion of their stomachs where food is ground against gastroliths and keratinous spines. (Mahmood and Hussain, 2013; Mohapatra and Panda, 2014)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial worms

Predation

Indian pangolins will curl into an armored ball to protect themselves from predators. Their limbs are tucked into their bodies only the scales of their bodies and tails are exposed. When in this position it is extremely hard for other organisms to attack them, as their scales are keratinous. They are very strong, so most organisms cannot unravel them from this position. If they are grabbed by the tail, they will rotate in both directions to break free. They may also excrete a nasty odor from their anal glands to scare off predators. They may also give off a hissing noise when stressed or attacked. There aren’t many known predators of Indian pangolins due to this defense mechanism, although tigers and humans are known to eat them. ("Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) longevity, ageing, and life history", 2009; Mohapatra and Panda, 2014)

  • Known Predators
    • Humans and tigers

Ecosystem Roles

Since Indian pangolins are insectivores, they help to keep ant and termite populations in check. Also, since they use their powerful claws to dig up dirt to build their burrows, they break up and aerate soil. (Mohapatra and Panda, 2014)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Indian pangolins eat termites, that may destroy infrastructure, and ants that could have negative impacts on agricultural crops (Mohapatra & Panda 2014). Their skins are traded illegally to be used in leather goods such as boots and their scales are used for a wide variety of traditional southeast Asian folk medicines. Their scales are believed to be aphrodisiacs, help treat headaches and colds, and in some cases cure cancer. Their meat is also consumed and is viewed as a delicacy in some cultures. (Mahmood, et al., 2015; Mohapatra and Panda, 2014)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known negative economic impacts from Indian pangolins.

Conservation Status

Indian pangolins, as well as all other pangolin species, are considered endangered on the IUCN Red List. They are also considered one of the most trafficked animals in the world due to high demand for their parts. Even though they are protected under international law for conservation, their populations continue to drop as they usually only bear one offspring per year and the destruction of their habitats due to deforestation continues in Pakistan and India. (Mahmood, et al., 2015)

Contributors

Kevin Clausen (author), Colorado State University, Kate Gloeckner (editor), Colorado State University, Galen Burrell (editor).

Glossary

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

aposematic

having coloration that serves a protective function for the animal, usually used to refer to animals with colors that warn predators of their toxicity. For example: animals with bright red or yellow coloration are often toxic or distasteful.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

carnivore

an animal that mainly eats meat

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

detritus

particles of organic material from dead and decomposing organisms. Detritus is the result of the activity of decomposers (organisms that decompose organic material).

drug

a substance used for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females

food

A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

fossorial

Referring to a burrowing life-style or behavior, specialized for digging or burrowing.

insectivore

An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

monogamous

Having one mate at a time.

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

oriental

found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.

World Map

rainforest

rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

soil aeration

digs and breaks up soil so air and water can get in

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

temperate

that region of the Earth between 23.5 degrees North and 60 degrees North (between the Tropic of Cancer and the Arctic Circle) and between 23.5 degrees South and 60 degrees South (between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle).

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

territorial

defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

tropical savanna and grassland

A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.

savanna

A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.

temperate grassland

A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

References

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Ma, J., L. Li, H. Jiang, X. Zhang, J. Li, G. Li, J. Chen. 2018. Acidic mammalian chitinase gene is highly expressed in the special oxyntic glands of Manis javanica. FEBS Open Bio, Volume 8: 1247.

Mahmood, J., K. Hussain. 2013. Plant Species Association, Burrow Characteristics and the Diet of the Indian Pangolin. Pakistan Journal of Zoology, Volume 45, Issue 6: 1533-1539.

Mahmood, T., N. Irshad, R. Hussain. 2001. Habitat preference and population estimates of Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) in district Chakwal of Potohar Plateau, Pakistan. Russian Journal of Ecology, Volume 45, Issue 1: 70-75. Accessed February 26, 2019 at https://link.springer.com/article/10.1134%2FS1067413614010081.

Mahmood, T., N. Irshad, R. Hussain, F. Akrim, I. Hussain, M. Anwar, M. Rais, M. Nadeem. 2015. Breeding habits of the Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata) in Potohar Plateau, Pakistan. De Gruyter, Volume 80, Issue 2: 231-34. Accessed March 04, 2019 at https://www-degruyter-com.ezproxy2.library.colostate.edu/view/j/mamm.2016.80.issue-2/mammalia-2014-0153/mammalia-2014-0153.xml.

Mohapatra, R., S. Panda. 2014. Behavioural Description of Indian Pangolins (Manis crassicaudata) in Captivity. International Journal of Zoology, Volume 2014: 1-7. Accessed February 26, 2019 at https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ijz/2014/795062/.

Mohapatra, R., S. Panda, M. Nair. 2015. On the mating behavior of captive Indian pangolin (Manis crassicaudata). Taprobanica, Volume 7, Issue 1: 57-59. Accessed March 07, 2019 at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/271721446_On_the_mating_behaviour_of_captive_Indian_pangolin_Manis_crassicaudata.

Roberts, T. 1997. The Mammals of Pakistan. Karachi, Pakistan: Oxford University Press.