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Pangolins Use Rocks in Lieu of Teeth

Pangolins, or scaly anteaters, are amazing little mammals. There are eight species of them, and they are the only living creatures in their order of Pholidota. Spread throughout Asia and Africa, they can be as small as 2 kg or as large at 35 kg. But if you meet one, you will probably be struck by their scales.

Pangolins are covered in large keratin scales that function to protect them from predators and pests. They are the only mammal with these scales, made of the same material as horns and hooves, though armadillos do have a thick hide based on bone that serves similar purposes.

Scaly anteaters are obligate insectivores, feasting on ants and termites. Their saliva is very sticky, allowing bugs to be picked up and drawn out of nests with their long tongues.

Pangolins have no teeth, but they do eat a lot of small rocks. These pebbles sit in their gizzards and, along with some horn-like protrusions on the inside of their gizzards, help to grind up their food. The rocks even get a special name, gastroliths, and they’re used by a few species, including axolotls, crocodiles and sea lions.


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