The endangered Sunda pangolin, or “scaly anteater,” is a widely trafficked mammal, prized in some cultures for its meat and scales. Little is known about these animals, and raising rescued pangolins is tricky. In the wild, they eat termites and ants, but diets provided in captivity often make them sick. Now, a study in ACS Omega reports that pangolins lack some common digestive enzymes, which could explain why some diets don’t work well for them.
Pangolins use their long, sticky tongues to extract termites and ants from their nests for a tasty meal. Most of the protein content in these insects is locked up in their exoskeletons, which are made of chitin, a substance that is difficult for most animals to digest. There is little information about how pangolins get energy and nutrients from ants and termites. While those who rescue pangolins work to feed them diets they think are nutritious, pangolins do not take well to artificial food sources and often develop gastrointestinal diseases in captivity. Shibao Wu and colleagues wanted to find out whether the pangolin has a special digestive physiology. MORE
Header image: The Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) Credit: Sarita Jnawali of NTNC – Central Zoo The United States, CC BY 2.0.