Manis crassicaudataIndian pangolin

Geographic Range

Manis crassicaudata is found in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan.


Manis crassicaudata occupy a variety of habitats. They have been found in tropical rainforests, subtropical thorn forests, plains and the lower slopes of mountains.

Physical Description

Head and body length of Manis crassicaudata can range from 45-75cm, and the tail can be 33-45cm. Males are generally larger than females. The head is small and triangular in shape and the body is slender and long. Manis crassicaudata is covered with about 15-18 rows of tough scales along the dorsal side of its head and body, and about 14-16 rows of scales on its tail. These scales are yellow-brown or yellow-gray in color and made of fused hair. The tough surface protects them from predators, prey, parasites, cold weather, and sharp rocks when they burrow. The scales make up 1/4 to 1/3 of it's body mass. They possess 5 powerful claws on each limb, 3 of which are adapted for digging burrows or locating their prey's nests. They have no teeth. Their tongue, which is 23-25.5cm long, is their main tool for capturing food. It has muscular attachments extending all the way to the pelvis.

  • Range mass
    5 to 35 kg
    11.01 to 77.09 lb
  • Range length
    45 to 75 cm
    17.72 to 29.53 in
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    6.923 W


Little is known about the reproduction patterns of Manis crassicaudata. Births have been recorded in January, March, July, and November. The gestation period is between 65-70 days. Females give birth to a single young, and ocassionally two can be produced. Newborns can weigh from 200-500 grams. Their scales are soft, eyes are functional, and can immediately crawl on its own. At about 1 month of age the young are carried on the dorsal base of the mother's tail when foraging, and at about 3 months of age the young are weaned. The longevity of Manis crassicaudata under captive conditions is greater than 13 years. Nothing is known of longevity in the wild.

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    67 days



Manis crassicaudata are nocturnal, spending most of the day in their burrows or among rocks. They are more active at night when they leave their burrow in search of food. Manis crassicaudata live alone most of the time, with the exception of the mating season. During the breeding season both pangolins are found in the same burrow.

Their burrows range in depth and depend on soil type. Soft soil can have burrows 6 meters deep, while rocky hard soil have a more shallow depth of 2 meters. They usually close the entrance of their burrow with loose soil to hide it from predators.

For protection the Indian pangolin curls up into a ball, exposing only its scales. Manis crassicaudata also have anal glands capable of emitting a foul smelling, yellow fluid for defense against its predators.

The pangolin in Sri Lanka lives in the tropical rainforest where most ants eat the fruits and flowers available in the trees. It is here where the pangolin makes best use of its prehensile tail and sharp claws to live in an arboreal setting. They climb with their forelegs and use their prehensile tail and limbs for a better purchase. However, since most M. crassicaudata feed and live on the ground, they are considered terrestrial.

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Manis crassicaudata has a myrmecophagous diet. They mainly eat termites, ants and their eggs, although one Indian pangolin's stomach was reportedly filled with beetle wing sheaths, cockroaches, and skins of worms.

They do not have good hearing or eyesight, instead they rely on their sense of smell to locate the nests of ants and termites. They have 3 main claws that allow them to dig through tough soil. Once they locate and expose the nests their tongues allow them to infiltrate the nest sites with ease. They rapidly "lick" their tongue along the nests as if they were drinking water to catch their prey. Since Manis crassicaudata have no teeth all of the process of "chewing" is done in the stomach. They have a two chambered stomach. One is used for storage, the other which is 1/5 the total size of the stomach is rough and lined with thick muscular tissue. This is the part of the stomach that "chews" and grinds the food before it goes to the intestines.

They prefer several species of prey item, for instance, they might pass up ants and termites under logs in favor of termites in mounds.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Manus crassicaudata eat termites that would otherwise destroy crops and buildings.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

This species poses no threat to humans.

Conservation Status

It is hunted frequently in Pakistan because some of it's body parts are used for medicinal purposes. Scales are thought of as an aphrodisiac. They are sometimes used to make necklaces. Boots and shoes are made of their skin.

Other Comments

Since pangolins resemble armadillos and anteaters in the use of the tongue and the ability to curl into a ball, they were once grouped with them in the order Edentata. They are still called sometimes by their common name of scaly anteaters. Pangolins have been placed in the group Xenarthra.

There is a story of a villager that knocked a pangolin out and brought it back to the village with it around his neck. But the pangolin regained conscience and quickly tried to curl up into a ball. Unfortunately the villager's neck was caught in the middle and he was found strangled to death with the pangolin still wrapped around him.


Neil de Guia (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Phil Myers (editor), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.


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.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


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.


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


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.


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

World Map


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.

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.


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


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


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.


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.


Heath, M. October 20, 1995. Manis crassicaudata. Mammalian Species, No. 513: 1-4.

Nowak, R. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Roberts, T. 1977. The Mammals of Pakistan. Cambridge: Ernest Benn Limited.