Every so often somebody writes about the wildlife on Earth I have yet to encounter. Typically it’s the deep sea animals that get a resounding “wtf” from me, but today I learned about another weirdo endangered mammal called the pangolin.
Like an armadillo’s shell, a pangolin’s scales are made of keratin, the same material that comprises mammal horns and fingernails. In a real sense, pangolin scales are made of densely fused hair, and they can be lifted and moved to, for example, crush ants defending their nest by getting between them to bite the underlying skin. Combining this highly unusual protective coat with the pangolin’s specialized tongue, which is disconnected from the hyoid bone in the throat to allow it to be up to a third of the animal’s total length, and their tiny, narrow heads provides an alien visage that no other creature on Earth can match.
Read more about these adorable weirdos here. Warning: It’s a story of frauds exploiting mystical myths and as is often the case with animals targeted for these practices, the harvesting methods are gruesome.