Rollin' With the Pangolin
 
(Manis temminckii )


Diet and Nutrition - What's for Dinner?


A termite mound where a pangolin would feed.  Image courtesy of Earth Rangers.The diet of pangolins is fairly simple and straightforward.  They are carnivorous animals, usually consuming a wide variety of ant and termite species, but are also able to eat larvae and a few other insects. Although there are hundreds of species of termites, ants and other insects that they can consume, pangolins are somewhat picky when it comes to what they eat.  Depending on where they are located and how much prey is available to them, a single pangolin will usually only consume one or two particular species of insects.  It is unknown why they stick with only a few species when many more are accessible.

Because pangolins have very small eyes, and therefore bad eyesight, they rely greatly on their strong sense of smell as well as their hearing to locate prey items. Once their prey is located, the animals dig into a termite or ant mound (pictured above) with their powerful claws and then use their long, flicking tongue to pick up their prey.A close up featuring the tongue and claws of a pangolin.  Image courtesy of Tikki Hywood Trust.  In fact, the sticky tongue, which extends back into a special cavity their its abdomen, is actually longer than the whole body of the animals.  On a typical day, pangolins can consume 140 to 200 grams of insects. Since they have no teeth, pangolins consume their prey whole, using a unique stomach to digest the food.  The stomach of pangolins contains small rocks and pebbles that they consume to aid in digestion.  These stones, along with their strong stomach walls that have points protruding from them, allow the animals to crush and break down their food into a more digestible form.  This form of digestion is very similar the way gizzards function in birds such as ducks, chickens, and turkeys. Interestingly, the ants and termites the pangolins consume contain formic acid which actually helps the insects themselves.

In order to distribute the nutrients they take in when consuming these ants and termites, pangolins use a closed circulatory system.  Their heart pumps blood throughout their body to distribute nutrients that are absorbed by the digestive system to the rest of the body.

 

Click here to find out how the pangolin reproduces!       

 

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2012 Craig Grosshuesch