White-bellied pangolins (Phataginus tricuspis) are mammals with a number of interesting adaptations. These pangolins have sharp, overlapping scales, and they protect themselves by curling up into a scale-covered ball. They have a long, prehensile tail and clawed feet to help them move in the high branches of trees. Pangolins also have several adaptations that help them feed on termites and ants, which make up the bulk of their diet. They can extend their long tongue up to 25 centimeters (about 10 inches), making it easier for them to access the ants and termites. They also have thick eyelids that provide protection from the bites of their preferred prey. Similarly, they can close off their nostrils and ears when feeding.
White-bellied pangolins are found in West Africa and Central Africa and as far south as northwestern Zambia and Angola. They are found in 22 countries in this region. Though they are located in Africa and are hunted there for their meat, one of the biggest threats to this species comes from Asia. Pangolin scales are highly valued in traditional Chinese medicine. Of the four pangolin species found in Asia, two are listed as endangered and two as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), in part due to overhunting. Growing economic ties between Asia and Africa seem to be contributing to an increasing illegal trade of wildlife. Pangolins are thought to be one of the world’s most trafficked animals, and the African species are increasingly traded along this route. Protections are in place to protect the white-bellied pangolin, but more aggressive measures are likely needed. In 2016, a number of countries agreed to completely ban international trade in pangolins.
a modification of an organism or its parts that makes it more fit for existence. An adaptation is passed from generation to generation.
level of conservation between "endangered" and "extinct in the wild."
organism threatened with extinction.
traditional Chinese medicine
system of medicine established approximately 2,200 years ago that strives to prevent or cure disease by maintaining or balancing a body's energy, or chi (qi).