Pangolins and armadillos often capture people’s attention due to their striking physical similarities. Both of these small-to-medium sized insectivores are covered in hard scales made of keratin, the same material found in human fingernails and toenails. Those familiar with the popular Pokemon, Sandshrew, might find a resemblance with the scaly pangolin. In contrast, armadillos are frequently associated with roadkill, as many species leap when scared, leading them to collide with vehicles. Among the two, pangolins face a more critical situation as they are heavily trafficked for their use in traditional medicines, placing some species on the brink of extinction.

This article aims to identify key differences between pangolins and armadillos, providing insights into their unique threats, habitats, and backgrounds. We will explore how to distinguish them from one another and address frequently asked questions about these fascinating mammals. Join us in uncovering the captivating world of armored mammals, revealing what sets pangolins and armadillos apart.

Comparing Pangolins and Armadillos

Pangolins and armadillos are unique mammals with some similarities and differences. They both have armor-like features, but their taxonomy and appearances differ. Pangolins belong to the order Pholidota and family Manidae, while armadillos are part of the Xenarthra superorder, in the order Cingulata.

Their distribution and habitats differ, with pangolins being found in South Asia and South Africa, while armadillos inhabit South and North America. Pangolins can live in trees or underground, whereas armadillos reside in underground dens.

When it comes to sizes, pangolins range from 12 to 55 inches in length and weigh between 4.4 and 72.6 pounds. Armadillos vary from 5.1 to 59 inches long, with weights from 4 ounces to 119 pounds. In terms of movement, pangolins are generally slow, moving at a maximum speed of 3 miles per hour. On the other hand, armadillos can reach up to 30 miles per hour and can even walk underwater.

Pangolins possess no teeth, while armadillos have teeth without clear divisions between molars and premolars, lacking incisors and canines. For their armor, pangolins have sharp, large interlocking plate-like scales, while armadillos have a bony shell covering their shoulders and hips, with connected bands on their backs.

Both animals use defensive mechanisms, such as curling into a ball for pangolins, along with emitting a noxious chemical. Armadillos usually flee to cover or dig to safety, with some being able to roll into a ball.

Their diets primarily consist of ants, termites, and larvae, although armadillos also eat fruits and invertebrates. Pangolins grind their food using gastroliths inside their stomachs, while armadillos dig for food.

In reproduction, pangolins are solitary creatures and mate during summer or autumn, producing 1 to 3 offspring. Armadillos in the Dasypus genus typically give birth to identical quadruplets, and the number of offspring ranges from 1 to 8.

The 9 Key Differences Between Pangolins and Armadillos

Pangolins and Armadillos: Classification

Pangolins and armadillos may appear alike, but they are not closely related. Pangolins belong to the Pholidota order with Manidae as the only existing family which includes three genera and eight species. Armadillos, however, are part of the Cingulata suborder, comprising mainly Chlamyphoridae and Dasypodidae families, and 20 known species.

Pangolins and Armadillos: Geographical Distribution and Habitats

Both pangolins and armadillos favor tropical climates and inhabit deserts, rainforests, and grasslands. But, they don’t share the same regions. While the four Manis species inhabit South Asia, the two Phataginus and two Smutsia species live in sub-Saharan Africa. Pangolins can be arboreal or fossorial, whereas armadillos dwell exclusively in underground burrows.

Pangolins and Armadillos: Physical Dimensions

On average, these animals are similar in size, but armadillos exhibit more size variation. Pangolins typically grow between 12 and 39 inches, with the giant pangolin reaching up to 55 inches and 72.6 pounds. The giant armadillo can measure up to 59 inches and weigh nearly 119 pounds, whereas the pink fairy armadillo grows only up to 6 inches and weighs about 4 ounces.

Pangolins and Armadillos: Locomotion

At a casual observation, their movements seem similar due to their sturdy, short legs. However, pangolins usually move slower, at a pace of 3 mph, while armadillos can reach speeds of 30 mph. Additionally, pangolins walk with their front claws bent under their footpad and may use only their back legs to flee or climb trees. Armadillos stay grounded or walk underwater when crossing water bodies.

Pangolins and Armadillos: Dental Characteristics

These insectivores have distinct ways of eating. Pangolins lack teeth and use their sticky tongues to catch and swallow insects whole. Armadillos have teeth that grind insects without distinguishing between molars, premolars, incisors, or canines.

Pangolins and Armadillos: Body Armor

Pangolins have flexible armor made of sharp, overlapping scales, whereas armadillos have dermal bone plates covered in keratinous scales or scutes. The number of bands and plate location varies between armadillo species.

Pangolins and Armadillos: Defense Mechanisms

A common myth is that all armadillos curl up to evade predators. Actually, only three-banded armadillos adopt this defense, while other species run or dig to escape. Pangolins typically curl into a ball, and some also produce a foul-smelling odor as a deterrent.

Pangolins and Armadillos: Dietary Habits and Digestion

Both are primarily insectivores, but armadillos may also eat invertebrates and small amounts of fruit. They forage mostly by digging, whereas some tree-dwelling pangolins peel off bark to expose insects. Pangolins swallow gastroliths to grind their food in their stomachs using a spike-filled gizzard, as they lack teeth for chewing.

Pangolins and Armadillos: Mating and Offspring

These creatures lead solitary lives except during mating season. Female pangolins usually give birth to one or up to three offspring. Some armadillos, like those in the Dasypus genus, always give birth to identical quadruplets. Other species may have litters ranging from one to eight offspring.

Frequently Asked Questions About Pangolins and Armadillos

Pangolins have impressively long tongues, extending up to 16 inches in large species. Their tongues are unique as they attach to the thorax instead of the hyoid bone. As for conservation status, all eight pangolin species are threatened, with three critically endangered, three endangered, and two vulnerable. Armadillos, on the other hand, only have a few species considered threatened, such as Yepes’s mulita, whilst others like the nine-banded armadillo are not.

It’s important to note that armadillos have a low body temperature, making them more susceptible to the leprosy bacterium, Mycobacterium leprae. There is a possibility of contracting leprosy from armadillos by handling them or consuming their meat.

We hope this information has provided valuable insights into these unique creatures – their remarkable traits, conservation concerns, and potential health risks.

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