Longtailed pangolin

Manis tetradactyla

SUBFAMILY

Smutsiinae

TAXONOMY

Manis tetradactyla Linnaeus, 1766, West Africa.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

None known.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Long-tailed pangolins have a head and body length of 12-16 in (30-40 cm), a tail length of 22-28 in (55-70 cm), and a weight of 2.6-5.5 lb (1.2-2.5 kg). They are the smallest of the order Pholidota. The scales are dark brown in color with yellowish edges. Nine to 13 rows of scales encompass the entire top of the species. Their hair is dark brown to black. They have a very long, prehensile tail, the longest tail of all of the species and almost two-thirds of its entire body length. There is a short, bare patch at the tip of the tail. This species possess 46-47 caudal vertebrae, the largest number of all mammals. They do not have external ears, have scales on the tail (but do not have scales underneath the tail), and the rear part of the breastbone is very long. The sternum consists of two extraordinarily long cartilaginous rods extending outside the diaphragm, first toward the rear and then arcing toward the head again. They have short, thick limbs and digits with long curved claws.

DISTRIBUTION

From Senegal to Uganda and Angola. HABITAT

They prefer tropical rainforests, and not the edges of forests. Their territory is restricted within the forest canopy, but it is unknown if they maintain a home territory.

BEHAVIOR

They are the only species of pangolin that is not nocturnal: they are predominantly diurnal, eating during the day. They are very good climbers (arboreal), able to easily scale vertical tree trunks. Contact with the ground is rare. They climb with the front legs gripping the tree simultaneously, and with the body curved. The hind feet are then loosened up and are anchored close behind the front feet. With the hind feet and the tail giving the body necessary support, the front feet grip the bark further up. They are also able to hang by the tip of their tail. When hanging by its tail and wanting to resume climbing, they will often climb up their tail. They sleep in hollow trees, liana curtains, forks in trees, or epiphytes (plants growing on trees), often rolled up in the shape of a ball. The animals often sun themselves while stretched out on a tree limb or branch.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

They eat mostly ants, preferring tree ants of the genera Cam-ponotus, Catalacus, and Crematogaster. They will seek the soft, hanging nests of ants and termites, or will attack the ant columns that move among the leaves.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

It is believed that they breed throughout the year. When mating, the male and female will intertwine tails and face each other ventrally. The gestation period is unknown. Females give birth to one young at a time. Birth weight is 3.6-5.4 oz (100-150 g). The young will ride on the mother for up to three months. Weaning and life span are generally unknown, and sexual maturity is thought to be around two years.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS They are hunted for meat. ♦

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