Tree Pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis)

Fun Fact: The tree pangolin had belonged to the genus Manis and subgenus Phataginus before Phataginus was elevated to a generic status.

Scientific Classification:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Pholidota

Family: Manidae

Genus: Phataginus

Species: tricuspis


Body and Skeletal Structure:

Tree Pangolin | Body
(Also known as Phataginus tripuspis)

Tree Pangolin | Skeleton


Description:

Fun Fact: The tree pangolin is also known as a white-bellied pangolin, scaly anteater, small-scaled tree pangolin, and three-cusped pangolin.

Size:

A tree pangolin’s head-to-body length typically ranges to be about 11 to 34 in (~28-86 cm) long, while their tail length is among the same range as well. Their weight, meanwhile, is usually about 3.7 to 5.3 lbs (1.7-2.4 kg).

Appearance:

Tree pangolins have tough, armored bodies with brown, sharp-edged overlapping scales that protect it. Each of these artichoke-leaf shaped scales has three points, hence the common and scientific name tricuspis. They also have a long, prehensile tail, which has a bare sensory pad at the tip, and clawed feet which help it scale the trunks and branches of trees. They have a small and pointed head with thick, heavy eyelids that protect its eyes from the bites of ants and termites on which it feeds. For the same reason, its nostrils and ear openings can be closed by special muscles when feeding.

Diet:

These pangolins are insectivorous animals, specializing on ants and termites as well as soft-bodied invertebrates. Their tongue and face are well adapted to this type of diet. Their elongated snout houses a muscular tongue that can be extended up to a third of their body length. They use their claws on their forelimbs to open an insect mound, and their tongue quickly darts in and out of the mound, collecting insects. They also drink water in a similar manner.

Typical Lifespan:

Their lifespan in the wild is currently unknown. However, they may live to be about 10 years old in zoos.


Tree Pangolin | Artwork
Artwork by WesTalbott on DeviantArt.

Reproduction:

Mating Season: Year-round (Any time of the year)

Gestation Period: About 150 days

Litter Size: 1 infant (Though uncommon, may produce 2 infants)


Communication and Behavior:

Tree pangolins are generally solitary animals, but they do occasionally travel in pairs. These nocturnal creatures tend to shelter in tree hollows throughout the day. They are also capable swimmers, climbers, and runners when need be. However, little information is known regarding parental investment of tree pangolins. Mothers provide care for some duration of time, as infants ride on their mother’s back or tail. For protection, the mother curls into a ball with the infant encompassed in the middle. It can also spray a nasty smelling liquid, just as a skunk might. The newborn’s scales are soft but begin to harden in a few days. It is born with its eyes open, but the baby is not able to walk for a few weeks. Young pangolins are weaned at about four months and are ready for life on their own at about five months of age.

Tree Pangolin | Rolled
The name pangolin comes from the Malay word “pengguling,” which means rolling over. This is fitting for an animal that usually curls itself into a ball for protection when it feels threatened by potential predators.

Habitat and Range:

Tree pangolins mainly reside in primary tropical forests as well as mosaic forests. They are arboreal as well as terrestrial.

Tree Pangolin Range


Conservation Status:

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Tree pangolins, as of now, are considered to be vulnerable, and their numbers are quickly decreasing. They are continuously threatened by the illegal wildlife trade, habitat loss (mainly due to deforestation), and poaching (for their scales and meat).


Sources:

Phataginus tricuspis | The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

Tree Pangolin | San Diego Zoo Animals & Plants

Three-cusped pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis)| Wildscreen Arkive

Manis tricuspis – tree pangolin| Animal Diversity Web

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