Rollin' With the Pangolin
(Manis temminckii )

Taxonomy and Classification - How did it get its name?

Strangely, this particular species can be referred to by two scientific names: Manis temminckii and Smustia temminckii.  The genus Smutsia is usually only a subgenus, however for this particular species and Smutsia gigantea, it can be considered a genus.  For this website, I will be referring to the species as Manis temminckii, the way it is most commonly classified.  The genus name Manis means hand in English because of the strong hands all pangolins have for digging.  The specific epithet temminckii is named after a Dutch zoologist - Coenraad Jacob Temminck, who is pictured below.

This organism also has several different common names: the ground pangolin, the cape pangolin, and Temminck's pangolin.  The ground pangolin got its common name "pangolin" from the Malay world "pengguling," meaning rolling up.  This is because when threatened, the animal has the ability to roll into a tight, almost impenetrable ball. 

The zoologist Coenraad Jacob Temminck, who the species was named after.  Image open to public due to expiration of the copyright.


 The following is the specific taxonomy for Manis temminckii :

Domain: Eukarya
    Kingdom: Anamalia
        Phylum: Chordata
            Class: Mammalia
                Order: Pholidota
                    Family: Manidae
                        Genus: Manis
Species: Manis temminckii



Domain: Eukarya
The ground pangolin is a member of the Eukarya because it has a true nucleus, linear DNA, and membrane bound organelles, characteristics that all eukaryotes exhibit.       

Kingdom: Animalia   
Organisms in this kingdom are multicellular, heterotrophic - consuming other organisms for food, and are able to move, all traits which pangolins also have.   


Phylum: ChordataThe koala is also another member of the Animalia, Chordata, and Mammalia.  Image courtesy of user: Quartl in the Wikimedia Commons.
Like all other chordates, Manis temminckii possesses a notochord, a dorsal, tubular nerve chord, pharyngeal gill slits, an endostyle, and a postanal tail at some point in their life cycle.  This species also belongs to the Subphylum Craniata.   

Class: Mammalia   
Characteristics of animals in the Mammalia include a body covered with keratinous hair (the scales of the pangolin are actually fused hairs), mammary glands that produce milk for young.  Mammals also are endothermic and have highly developed parental care.  Ground pangolins are also classified under the Infraclass Eutheria, meaning they are Placentals and
have a long time of gestation, giving birth to highly developed young.


Order: Pholidota            Another species of pangolin - the Malayan Pangolin or Manis javanica.  This particular species belongs to both the Pholidota and the Manidae.  Image courtesy of user: Piekfrosch in the Wikimedia commons.
The Pholidota is made of different species of pangolins.  All members share characteristics such as scales covering their bodies, no teeth, and very long tongues.  Another pangolin species, Manis javanica, is pictured to the right.   

Family: Manidae
Only 8 species of pangolins comprise this particular family.  These species include the giant pangolin, tree pangolin, long-tailed pangolin, Chinese pangolin, Indian pangolin, Malayan pangolin, Philippine pangolin, and of course, the ground pangolin.  All pangolins have long claws, the ability to curl into a ball, and are primarily nocturnal.

Genus: Manis
The genus Manis contains the same 8 species that are found in the Manidae family.  Other characteristics the species of pangolins posses are a long tail, thick eyelids, and a gizzard - like stomach.  Four species (Chinese, Indian, Malayan and Philippine) reside in Asia while the others (tree, giant, long-tailed, and ground) can be found in Africa.   

Species: Manis temminckii       
The ground pangolin is different in a few ways from other pangolin species.  Unlike some pangolins, Manis temminckii is unable to climb, has a smaller head than other species, and lives in Central and Southern Africa.       


A phylogenetic tree spanning from Domain to Subclass.  Image created by Craig Grosshuesch.

This phylogenetic tree diagrams the domains to the subclasses to which Manis temminckii is most closely related.  It is based solely on morphology, or physical characteristics.  More specifically, the absence of a cell wall separates the Animalia from the Plantae and Fungi, the presence of a skull distinguishes the Craniata from the Cephalochordata and Urochordata, and internal development of young that are well developed at birth defines the Mammals and Placentals. The blue parts of the tree indicate the taxa to which Manis temminckii belongs.   

    A phylogenetic tree spanning from Class to Species.  Image created by Craig Grosshuesch.

This phylogentic tree shows the taxa from class to species in which the ground pangolin can be found as well as other closely related taxa.  Like the first tree, this one is also based on morphological characteristics.  Some of the characteristics that were used are explained in the following sentences.  Placentals give birth to live, mature young, making them different from Monotremes and Marsupials.  Members of the Pholidota and Xenarthra do not have teeth, making them more closely related than species of the Chiroptera and Primates.  However, the Pholidota posses tough scales, which the Xenarthra do not have.  Within the Order Pholidota, there is only one Genus, Manis. This genus includes all 8 extant pangolin species that are living today.  Manis temminckii, the focus of this website, is different than other pangolin species in this genus because it possesses a short tail, a smaller head, and larger scales.  Again, the blue sections are taxonomic categories to which the ground pangolin belongs.   


Click here to check out where the ground pangolin lives!  


Back to Homepage           

2012 Craig Grosshuesch