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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
There are no known negative economic impacts from Indian pangolins.
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)
Kevin Clausen (author), Colorado State University, Kate Gloeckner (editor), Colorado State University, Galen Burrell (editor), Special Projects.
uses sound to communicate
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.
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.
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.
an animal that mainly eats meat
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
particles of organic material from dead and decomposing organisms. Detritus is the result of the activity of decomposers (organisms that decompose organic material).
a substance used for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease
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.
parental care is carried out by females
A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
Referring to a burrowing life-style or behavior, specialized for digging or burrowing.
An animal that eats mainly insects or spiders.
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).
Having one mate at a time.
having the capacity to move from one place to another.
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
active during the night
found in the oriental region of the world. In other words, India and southeast Asia.
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.
communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them
breeding is confined to a particular season
remains in the same area
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
digs and breaks up soil so air and water can get in
uses touch to communicate
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).
Living on the ground.
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
the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.
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.
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.
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.
reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.
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