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The Q? Blog

My Favorite Specimen, the Pangolin

by Ella -- Nov 17, 2015
Q?Crew Volunteer Ella

My name is Ella. I’m 14 years old. In school, biology and Latin are my favorite subjects. In college, I’d like to study philosophy of science and technology...

Q?Crew volunteer Ella holds a pangolin specimen in Q?rius. Photo by Melissa Cannon, Smithsonian.
Q?Crew volunteer Ella holds a pangolin specimen in Q?rius. Photo by Melissa Cannon, Smithsonian.

Pangolins are the only mammals with scales. I love showing the pangolin specimen to visitors because they often think it’s a reptile at first. It challenges everyone who looks at it to reevaluate his or her definition of a mammal. I like to use the pangolins to help Q?rius visitors make connections with other animals in the Museum. I first tell them that pangolins roll up into balls when threatened. Next, I ask the question, “Can you think of any other animals that exhibit similar defensive behaviors?”

Some other interesting facts that I share with visitors are:

  • The pangolin’s name is derived from the Malay word “pengguling,” meaning “something that rolls up.”
  • A pangolin’s tongue can extend up to 16 inches longer than its whole body.
  • An estimated 11,000 pangolins were poached in 2011 due to rumors that their scales could cure cancer.