Are Armadillos and Pangolins Related? Exploring the Connection Between These Unique Mammals

Are armadillos and pangolins related? This is a question that has stumped many people and one that continues to spark curiosity. For years, scientists have tried to unravel the mystery behind the relationship between these two fascinating creatures – both of which are armored animals. Armadillos are found primarily in the Americas, while pangolins are known to inhabit areas throughout Asia and Africa. However, despite their geographical differences, both animals share one thing in common – their scales. These hard armor-like coverings are what give them their unique appearance and the ability to defend themselves against predators.

Despite their similarities, armadillos and pangolins belong to two separate families of animals. Armadillos are classified as members of the Dasypodidae family, while pangolins are part of the Manidae family. Although both animals are covered in scales, the structures of their scales are vastly different. Armadillos have bony armor plates, while pangolins have scales made of keratin – the same protein found in human hair and nails. This means that the two animals have evolved to develop their own specific methods of protection and survival.

While the connection between armadillos and pangolins can seem obscure, their similarities have fueled many questions about how they might have evolved. These fascinating animals have adapted to different environments, where armor has become essential for survival. Yet despite their similarities, armadillos and pangolins are actually two distinct creatures that have adapted in separate locations across the globe. Even though these two animals share one important characteristic, their differences remain remarkable and should be celebrated.

Armadillos and Pangolins: Overview

Armadillos and pangolins are two unique and fascinating creatures that have captured the attention of scientists and animal lovers alike. They both belong to the order of mammals called Edentata, meaning they lack front teeth, and have similar physical characteristics such as a protective shell and long tongues. However, while armadillos are native to the Americas, pangolins can be found in Asia and Africa, making them separate species with distinct evolutionary histories.

Similarities between armadillos and pangolins

  • Both are covered in scales or armor-like plates for protection
  • They have long, sticky tongues for eating insects and other small prey
  • Armadillos and pangolins use their strong claws to dig burrows or climb trees
  • Both have poor eyesight but rely on their sense of smell for navigation and hunting

Differences between armadillos and pangolins

Despite their similarities, there are also several differences between armadillos and pangolins:

  • Armadillos are native to the Americas, while pangolins are found in Asia and Africa
  • Armadillos have a hard shell made of bony plates, while pangolins have overlapping, keratinized scales
  • Armadillos are known to be land animals, while pangolins can climb trees and also swim
  • Armadillos eat insects, plants, and small vertebrates, while pangolins are strictly insectivores

Conservation status of armadillos and pangolins

While both armadillos and pangolins are fascinating animals, they are also facing threats to their survival due to habitat loss and illegal wildlife trade. The IUCN lists some species of armadillos and pangolins as vulnerable or endangered, and conservation efforts are currently underway to protect their populations and habitats.

Armadillos Pangolins
At least 9 species are considered threatened or vulnerable All 8 species are threatened and facing extinction
Threats include habitat destruction, hunting, and roadkill Threats include habitat loss, hunting for their scales and meat, and trafficking for the traditional medicine market

It is important to recognize the unique and critical roles that armadillos and pangolins play in their ecosystems and work towards their conservation and protection.

Taxonomy and Classification of Armadillos and Pangolins

Armadillos and pangolins are unique animals that share some common characteristics. They both have protective scales on their bodies, as well as the ability to curl up into tight balls when threatened. However, the taxonomy and classification of these two species differ in several ways.

  • Armadillos belong to the order Cingulata, which means “banded” or “girdled.” They are part of the family Dasypodidae, which includes 21 species of armadillos. The nine-banded armadillo, found in North and South America, is the most well-known species.
  • Pangolins, on the other hand, belong to the order Pholidota. Their family name is Manidae, and they are also known as scaly anteaters. There are eight species of pangolins, four of which are found in Asia and four in Africa.

While both armadillos and pangolins have protective scales, the scales of pangolins are much larger and more keratinized than those of armadillos. Additionally, pangolins have longer tongues for feeding on ants and termites, while armadillos have shorter tongues for feeding on insects and other small animals.

The classification of these two species goes deeper than their order, family, and species names. Taxonomists also classify animals based on physical characteristics, genetic makeup, and evolutionary history. For example, the nine-banded armadillo is unique because it gives birth to four identical offspring from a single egg, making them quadruplets. Pangolins, in comparison, have a unique digestive system that uses muscular contractions to grind up the tough exoskeletons of their prey.

Overall, armadillos and pangolins are fascinating creatures with unique adaptations that have helped them survive in their respective environments. Despite their differences in taxonomy and classification, they share a common link in their survival strategies and provide insight into the diversity of life on Earth.

Armadillos Pangolins
Order: Cingulata Order: Pholidota
Family: Dasypodidae Family: Manidae
Species: 21 Species: 8

Understanding the taxonomy and classification of armadillos and pangolins helps biologists better understand the evolutionary history of these creatures and their place in the animal kingdom. As research and knowledge continue to evolve, more information and insights are likely to emerge about these unique and fascinating species.

Physical Characteristics of Armadillos and Pangolins

Armadillos and pangolins are fascinating creatures that share a few similarities, particularly in their physical characteristics. Let’s take a closer look at some of these traits and what sets the two apart.

  • Body Armor: Both armadillos and pangolins are known for their distinctive armor, which is made up of overlapping scales (known as scutes). However, the two animals have different methods of protection. Armadillos have bony plates on their backs, which are covered in scutes, while pangolins have keratinous scales that can actually be raised and used as a form of defense.
  • Tail: Another similarity between armadillos and pangolins is the presence of a long tail. However, these tails serve different purposes. Armadillos use their tails for balance and can even curl them to form protective walls around themselves. Pangolins use their tails for balance as well, but they can also use them to help with climbing trees (a key skill for some species).
  • No Teeth: One major difference between the two animals is that armadillos have teeth while pangolins do not. Instead, pangolins have long, sticky tongues (some of which can extend over a foot in length!) that they use to capture ants and other insects.

Size and Shape

When it comes to size and shape, armadillos and pangolins have a few key differences.

Armadillos range in size from small (only a few inches long) to quite large (up to 5 feet long). They have a distinctive, compact body shape, with short legs and a low-slung profile.

Pangolins, on the other hand, have a longer, more slender body shape. They are generally smaller than armadillos, with some species only reaching a foot or so in length.

Pangolin Diversity

While armadillos tend to have fairly similar physical characteristics across species, pangolins are a bit more diverse. Across the eight known pangolin species, there are differences in things like the shape of the scales, the size of the animal, and the cuteness of their nose. Here’s a breakdown:

Species Size and Shape Scaliness
Chinese Pangolin Small and slender Well-defined scales with a slightly pointed edge
Indian Pangolin Medium-sized and rounded The scales are smaller and less pronounced than in other species
Sunda Pangolin Medium-sized and tapered Distinctive, almost armored plating around the neck and tail, with smaller scales elsewhere
Philippine Pangolin Small and slender The scales are very small and somewhat rough
Tree Pangolin Small and slender Shorter, more rounded scales that form a “honeycomb” pattern
Long-Tailed Pangolin Medium-sized and slender Smaller scales that are more tightly compacted
Black-Bellied Pangolin Small and rounded Small, tightly-packed scales that are often dark in color
Giant Pangolin Large and tapered The scales are quite large, with distinctive ridges and a pointed edge

Overall, both armadillos and pangolins are fascinating animals with unique and striking physical characteristics. Whether it’s the armor-like scales or the distinctive body shape, these creatures are well-equipped to survive and thrive in their respective environments.

Ecological Role and Habitat of Armadillos and Pangolins

Armadillos and pangolins are fascinating creatures that play important ecological roles and inhabit different types of environments. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at their habitats and ecological roles.

Ecological Role

  • Both armadillos and pangolins are insectivores, which means they primarily eat insects and other small invertebrates.
  • Armadillos are also known to eat plants, small vertebrates, and occasionally carrion, while pangolins have a diet that consists solely of insects.
  • Their insectivorous diet makes them important in controlling insect populations, especially termites and ants that can be harmful to crops and other plants.
  • Armadillos and pangolins also serve as prey for larger predators, contributing to the food web and helping to maintain balance in their ecosystems.


Armadillos and pangolins have different habitat preferences.

  • Armadillos can be found in a range of habitats, from grasslands and deserts to forests and wetlands. They are adaptable to different environments and can burrow underground to escape extreme temperatures or predators.
  • Pangolins, on the other hand, are adapted to living in tropical and subtropical habitats, such as savannas, forests, and grasslands. They have a unique feature – their scales which provide protection against predators and harsh environments. These creatures are also known for their ability to curl up into a ball, which provides further protection from predators.

Threats to Armadillos and Pangolins

Despite being beneficial to their ecosystems, armadillos and pangolins are facing numerous threats. Here are some of the most significant:

  • Habitat destruction due to agriculture, logging, and development.
  • Poaching for their meat and scales, which are used in traditional medicine and as luxury goods.
  • Invasive species, especially in areas where armadillos and pangolins are not native.


Armadillos and pangolins are fascinating creatures that contribute to the ecological balance of their habitats. However, their populations are declining due to human activities, and they need our help to prevent their extinction.

Species Habitat Diet Threats
Armadillos Grasslands, deserts, forests, wetlands Insects, plants, small vertebrates, carrion Habitat destruction, poaching, invasive species
Pangolins Tropical and subtropical habitats Insects Habitat destruction, poaching

Let’s work together to protect these unique and important creatures and preserve them for future generations.

Feeding and Reproduction in Armadillos and Pangolins

Armadillos and pangolins may look similar with their armored appearance, but they belong to different families. Armadillos are New World animals while pangolins are found in Africa and Asia. However, both species share some similarities in their feeding and reproductive habits.

Feeding Habits

  • Armadillos are omnivores, feeding on a variety of foods including insects, small mammals, reptiles, and plants.
  • Pangolins are insectivores, mainly feeding on ants and termites.
  • Both armadillos and pangolins have specialized tongue muscles that help them capture their prey. Armadillos have long, sticky tongues while pangolins have tongues that are longer than their bodies.
  • Armadillos are also known for burrowing in search of food. They have sharp claws that allow them to dig for insects and roots.

Reproductive Habits

Armadillos and pangolins have unique reproductive habits that differ from other mammals.

  • Armadillos give birth to identical quadruplets, which means that all four babies come from the same fertilized egg. This is the only species of mammal that does this.
  • Armadillo reproduction is also unique in that females can delay the implantation of the fertilized egg in the uterus for several months or even years. This allows them to time the birth of their young with favorable environmental conditions.
  • Pangolins give birth to a single offspring at a time, which they carry on their tails. The babies are born with soft scales that harden within a few days.
  • Pangolins are also known for their long gestation periods, which can last up to six months.


Despite their unique differences, armadillos and pangolins share interesting feeding and reproductive habits. These animals highlight the diversity of the natural world and serve as a reminder of the amazing things that can be found right in our own backyard or across the globe.

Armadillos Pangolins
Omnivores Insectivores
Burrow for food Eat ants and termites
Give birth to identical quadruplets Carry offspring on their tails

Learn more about these fascinating creatures and take a moment to appreciate the little things that make life so interesting!

Armadillos and Pangolins: Threats and Conservation Status

Armadillos and pangolins may look cute and harmless, but they are facing numerous threats in the wild. Here’s a look at some of the most significant challenges they face:

  • Habitat loss: Destruction of natural habitats due to human activities like deforestation and urbanization is one of the primary threats to both armadillos and pangolins. As their habitats shrink, their population declines, and they become more vulnerable to other threats.
  • Poaching: Both armadillos and pangolins are prized for their meat and scales, which are believed to have medicinal properties. Despite international legal protection, the illegal trade of these animals continues to thrive, with poachers hunting them for both local and international markets.
  • Climate change: As temperatures and rainfall patterns change, armadillos and pangolins may find it difficult to adapt. Climate change could affect their food sources, migration patterns, and reproductive habits, leading to significant declines in their populations.

Conservation efforts are underway to protect these unique animals from extinction. Some of the strategies being employed include:

  • Increasing public awareness: Educating people about the dangers faced by armadillos and pangolins is the first step in their conservation. By raising awareness, people can make informed decisions that help reduce their impact on the environment and support conservation efforts.
  • Lobbying for legal protection: Advocacy groups are pushing for stronger legal protections for armadillos and pangolins, making it harder for poachers to ply their trade. They are also fighting to enforce existing laws at national and international levels.
  • Protecting natural habitats: Governments and conservation organizations are working to protect armadillos’ and pangolins’ natural habitats. Efforts include creating protected areas, reforestation, and establishing corridors to connect fragmented habitats.

Here’s a table that summarizes the conservation status of different armadillo and pangolin species:

Species Conservation Status
Nine-banded Armadillo Least Concern
Giant Armadillo Vulnerable
Southern Three-banded Armadillo Vulnerable
Pangolin Critically Endangered
Sunda Pangolin Critically Endangered
Chinese Pangolin Critically Endangered

While the future of armadillos and pangolins remains uncertain, there is hope that these unique, fascinating creatures will continue to thrive in the wild with the right conservation measures in place.

Armadillos and Pangolins: Cultural Significance and Folklore

Armadillos and pangolins have captured the attention and curiosity of cultures around the world. Their unique physical characteristics, along with their interesting behavior, have earned them a special place in myths, folktales, and legends.

  • In some parts of Brazil, the armadillo is known as the “tatu,” which means “shield” in Portuguese. This is because of their hard, protective shell. In local folklore, the armadillo’s shell is said to provide protection from negative energy and spirits, making it a popular symbol of good luck.
  • In West Africa, the pangolin is known as the “scaly anteater.” According to local folklore, the pangolin is a symbol of peace and tranquility. It is also believed to have the ability to detect sources of water under the ground, making it a valuable resource during times of drought.
  • Native American tribes in the Southwest also have stories and legends about the armadillo. In some traditions, the armadillo is a symbol of death and transformation. It is said that those who dream of the armadillo are destined for change and growth.

In addition to their cultural significance, armadillos and pangolins have also been featured in literature, films, and popular culture. In the popular children’s book “The Ant and the Grasshopper,” the armadillo plays the role of a wise and patient teacher, helping the ants to prepare for winter. In the Disney film “Zootopia,” the pangolin character Flash is known for his incredibly slow-moving nature, providing humor and comic relief in the story.

Despite their cultural relevance and popularity, armadillos and pangolins are facing a conservation crisis. Both species are threatened by habitat destruction, hunting, and the illegal wildlife trade. Without immediate action, these fascinating animals could disappear from our planet forever.

Armadillos Pangolins
Native to the Americas Native to Africa and Asia
20 different species 8 different species
Nocturnal Nocturnal or crepuscular

It is important to recognize the cultural significance and folklore surrounding armadillos and pangolins, as it contributes to our understanding and appreciation of these animals. However, it is equally important to protect these species and ensure their survival for future generations to enjoy and learn from.

FAQs about Are Armadillos and Pangolins Related

Q: Are armadillos and pangolins from the same family?

A: No, they are not from the same family. Armadillos are from the family Dasypodidae, while pangolins are from the family Manidae.

Q: Do armadillos and pangolins look alike?

A: They have some similarities in appearance, such as their armor-like scales, but they do not look identical. Armadillos have a longer snout and wider body than pangolins.

Q: Are armadillos and pangolins related because of their armor?

A: Although both animals have scales or armor-like protection, they evolved these features independently and for different reasons. Armadillos’ armor serves to protect them against predators, while pangolins use their scales as a defense mechanism.

Q: Are armadillos and pangolins both mammals?

A: Yes, both armadillos and pangolins are mammals. They are warm-blooded, have hair (or scales), and nurse their young with milk.

Q: Are armadillos and pangolins found in the same regions?

A: No, they are not found in the same regions. Armadillos are largely confined to the Americas, while pangolins are found in Africa and Southeast Asia.

Q: What is the main difference between armadillos and pangolins?

A: The main difference between the two animals is their diet. Armadillos are omnivorous, while pangolins are insectivorous.

Q: Can armadillos and pangolins interbreed?

A: No, they cannot interbreed. They are from different families and have distinct genetic makeups.

Thanks for Reading!

We hope this article has helped you understand the differences between armadillos and pangolins. While they may have some similarities, they are distinct animals with unique characteristics. If you have any further questions or comments, please feel free to leave them below. Thanks for reading, and we hope to see you again soon!