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Mar 12, 2014

A pangolin (also referred to as a scaly anteater or trenggiling) is a small mammal covered with large armour scales. A number of extinct species are also known. A pangolin has large keratin scales covering its skin, and is the only known mammal with this adaptation. It is found naturally in tropical regions throughout Africa and Asia. The name pangolin comes from the Malay word pengguling, meaning "something that rolls up".
Ground Pangolin
Ground Pangolin


The physical appearance of a pangolin is marked by large, hardened, overlapping plate-like scales. The scales, which are soft on newborn pangolins but harden as the animal matures, are made of keratin, the same material of which human fingernails and tetrapod claws are made. The pangolin's scaled body is comparable to a pine cone or globe artichoke. It can curl up into a ball when threatened, with its overlapping scales acting as armor and its face tucked under its tail. The scales are sharp, providing extra defense. The front claws are so long they are unsuited for walking, so the animal walks with its fore paws curled over to protect them. Pangolins can also emit a noxious-smelling acid from glands near the anus, similar to the spray of a skunk. Pangolins, though, are not able to spray this acid like skunks. They have short legs, with sharp claws which they use for burrowing into termite and ant mounds, as well as climbing.
Pangolin curled up into a ball
Pangolin curled up into a ball

The size of pangolins varies by species, ranging from 30 to 100 centimetres (12 to 39 in). Females are generally smaller than males.

The tongues of pangolins are extremely elongated and extend into the abdominal cavity. By convergent evolution, pangolins, the giant anteater, and the tube-lipped nectar bat all have tongues which are unattached to their hyoid bone and extend past their pharynx deep into the thorax.


Pangolins are nocturnal animals which use their well-developed sense of smell to find insects. The long-tailed pangolin is also active by day. Other species of pangolins spend most of the daytime sleeping curled up into a ball.

Arboreal pangolins live in hollow trees, whereas the ground dwelling species dig tunnels underground, to a depth of 3.5 metres (11 ft). Pangolins are also good swimmers.

Lion trying to eat live Pangolin
Lion trying to eat live Pangolin


Pangolins lack teeth and the ability to chew. Instead, they tear open anthills or termite mounds with their powerful front claws and probe deep into them with their very long tongues. Pangolins have glands in their chests to lubricate the tongue with sticky, ant-catching saliva.

Some species, such as the tree pangolin, use their strong, prehensile tails to hang from tree branches and strip away bark from the trunk, exposing insect nests inside.
Tree Pangolin climbing
Tree Pangolin climbing


Gestation is 120–150 days. African pangolin females usually give birth to a single offspring at a time, but the Asiatic species can give birth from one to three. Weight at birth is 80–450 g (3–18 ounces), and the scales are initially soft. The young cling to the mother's tail as she moves about, although in burrowing species, they remain in the burrow for the first two to four weeks of life. Weaning takes place at around three months of age, and pangolins become sexually mature at two years.


Pangolins are hunted and eaten in many parts of Africa, and are one of the more popular types of bush meat. They are also in great demand in China because their meat is considered a delicacy and some Chinese believe pangolin scales have medicinal qualities. This, coupled with deforestation, has led to a large decrease in the numbers of giant pangolins. In November 2010, pangolins were added to the Zoological Society of London's list of genetically distinct and endangered mammals. Two species of pangolin are classified by the IUCN as Endangered species.

Though pangolin are protected by an international ban on their trade, populations have suffered from illegal trafficking due to beliefs in Asia that their ground-up scales can stimulate lactation or cure cancer or asthma. In the past decade there have been numerous seizures of illegally trafficked pangolin and pangolin meat in Asia. In one such incident in 2013, 10,000 kilograms of pangolin meat was seized from a Chinese vessel that ran aground in the Philippines.

Tree Pangolin
Tree Pangolin

Indian star tortoise

Mar 4, 2014

The Indian star tortoise is a species of tortoise found in dry areas and scrub forest in India and Sri Lanka. This species is quite popular in the exotic pet trade. भारतीय स्टार कछुआ (Indian Star Tortoise).

Range and distribution

They range from India (except Lower Bengal), extending west to Sindh province (Pakistan), and Sri Lanka and borivali.

Anatomy and morphology

The carapace of G. elegans is very convex, with dorsal shields often forming humps; the lateral margins are nearly vertical; the posterior margin is somewhat expanded and strongly serrated. It has no nuchal scute, and the supracaudal is undivided, and curved inward in the male; the shields are strongly striated concentrically. The first vertebral scute is longer than broad, and the others are broader than long, with the third at least as broad as the corresponding costal. The plastron is large, truncated or openly notched in front, and deeply notched and bifid behind; the suture between the humerals is much longer than that between the femorals; the suture between the pectorals is very short; the axillary and inguinal sutures are rather small. The head is moderate in size, with the forehead swollen, convex, and covered with rather small and irregular shields; the beak is feebly hooked, bi- or tricuspid; the edges of the jaws are denticulated; the alveolar ridge of the upper jaw is strong. The outer-anterior face of the fore limbs have numerous unequal-sized, large, imbricate, bony, pointed tubercles; the heel has large, more or less spur-like tubercles; a group of large conical or subconical tubercles is found on the hinder side of the thigh. The carapace is black, with yellow areolae from which yellow streaks radiate; these streaks are usually narrow and very numerous. The plastron likewise has black and yellow, radiating streaks. The Indian star tortoise can grow to 10 inches long.

The patterning, although highly contrasting, is disruptive and breaks the outline of the tortoise as it sits in the shade of grass or vegetation. They are mostly herbivorous and feed on grasses, fallen fruit, flowers, and leaves of succulent plants, and will occasionally eat carrion. In captivity, however, they should never be fed meat.

The sexual dimorphism of adult Indian star tortoises is quite apparent. Females are considerably larger than their male counterparts. In addition, the females' plastrons are much flatter than those of the males, which have a concave shape.

The shape of this creature is presumed to be specially adapted to naturally assist it to return to a stable stance after it has been turned over. Mathematicians Gábor Domokos of the Budapest University of Technology and Economics and Péter Várkonyi of Princeton University designed a homogenous object called gömböc that has exactly one unstable balance point and exactly one stable balance point. Just as a bottom-weighted (nonhomogenous weight distribution) sphere would always return to the same upright position, they found it was possible to construct a shape that behaves the same way. After that, they noted the similarity to the Indian star tortoise and subsequently tested 30 turtles by turning them upside down. They found many of them to be self-righting.

Importance to humans

A large number of specimens of this species are found in the illegal wildlife trade in India. Few studies exist which have quantified wild populations and the effect of trade on them.


Mar 1, 2014

The ocelot (Leopardus pardalis), and also known as the dwarf leopard, is a wild cat inhabited extensively over South America including Central America, the islands of Trinidad and Margarita, and Mexico. It has been reported as far north as Texas. North of Mexico, it is found regularly only in the extreme southern part of Texas, although there are rare sightings in southern Arizona.

The ocelot is similar in appearance to a domestic cat. Its fur resembles that of a clouded leopard or jaguar and was once regarded as particularly valuable. As a result, hundreds of thousands of ocelots were once killed for their fur. The feline was classified a "vulnerable" endangered species from 1972 until 1996, and is now rated "least concern" by the 2008 IUCN Red List.


The name ocelot comes from the Nahuatl word ōcēlōtl (pronounced [oːˈseːloːt͡ɬ]), which usually refers to the jaguar (Panthera onca) rather than the ocelot.


The ocelot's genus Leopardus consists of nine species similar to the ocelot, such as Geoffroy's cat and the margay, which are also endemic to South and Central America. All of the cats in Leopardus are spotted, lithe, and small, with the ocelot being the biggest.

Physical Characteristics

The ocelot ranges from 68 to 100 centimetres (27 to 39 in) in length, plus 26 to 45 centimeters (10 to 18 in) in tail length, and typically weighs 8 to 18 kilograms (18 to 40 lb), although much larger individuals have occasionally been recorded, making it the largest of the generally dainty Leopardus wild cat genus. It has sleek, smooth fur, rounded ears and relatively large front paws. While similar in appearance to the oncilla and margay, which inhabit the same region, the ocelot is larger.

The coat pattern of ocelots can vary, being anything from cream to reddish-brown in color, or sometimes grayish, and marked with black rosettes. In many individuals, some of the spots, especially on the back, blend together to form irregular curved stripes or bands. The fur is short, and paler than the rest of the coat beneath. There are also single white spots, called ocelli, on the backs of the ears. Two black stripes line both sides of the face, and the long tail is banded by black.


The ocelot is mostly nocturnal and very territorial. It will fight fiercely, sometimes to the death, in territorial disputes. In addition, the cat marks its territory with urine. Like most felines, it is solitary, usually meeting only to mate. However, during the day it rests in trees or other dense foliage, and will occasionally share its spot with another ocelot of the same sex. Males occupy territories of 3.5 to 46 square kilometers (1.4 to 17.8 sq mi), while females occupy smaller, non-overlapping territories of 0.8 to 15 square kilometers (0.31 to 5.79 sq mi). Territories are marked by urine spraying and by leaving feces in prominent locations, sometimes favoring particular latrine sites.

Ocelots hunt over a range of 18 km2 (6.9 sq mi), taking mostly small animals, including mammals, lizards, turtles, and frogs, crabs, birds, and fish. Almost all of the prey that the ocelot hunts is far smaller than itself, with rodents, rabbits, and opossums forming the largest part of the diet. Studies suggest that it follows and finds prey via odor trails, but the ocelot also has very good vision, including night vision.

Distribution and habitat

The ocelot is distributed extensively over South America (including the islands of Margarita and Trinidad), Central America, and Mexico with a small population in southern Texas. Countries in this range are: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United States and Venezuela. The cat is likely extinct in Uruguay.

The ocelot once inhabited chaparral thickets of the Gulf Coast of south and eastern Texas, and could be found in Arizona, Louisiana, and Arkansas. In the United States, it now ranges only in several small areas of dense thicket in South Texas and is rarely sighted in Arizona. On November 7, 2009, an ocelot was photographed in the mountains of Cochise County, Arizona. This was the first such verifiable evidence of the feline's presence in the state. In February 2011, the Arizona Game and Fish Department confirmed the sighting of another ocelot in the Huachuca Mountains of southern Arizona.

The remnant U.S. ocelot population in south Texas has declined from 80-120 individuals in 1995 to less than 50 in recent years, with about half of ocelot deaths resulting from automobile accidents. Most surviving Texas ocelots are in the shrub lands remaining at or near the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge near Brownsville, where only 30-35 animals remain.

In Trinidad, habitat fragmentation, as well as direct exploitation via illegal poaching are major threats to the survival of the remnant populations of ocelots on the island. No empirical studies have been conducted to reliably estimate population status on the island. Historical records indicate that the species once existed on the island of Tobago, but it has long been extirpated there.

Ocelots only inhabit areas with relatively dense vegetation cover, although they may occasionally hunt in more open areas at night. They are found in tropical forest, thorn forest, mangrove swamps and savanna, at elevations ranging up to 1,200 meters (3,900 ft).