If you’ve ever seen a pangolin, you may have mistaken it for an armadillo, and no wonder. Both animals are covered in body armor, have long tails and pointed snouts, and walk low to the ground, hunched over. But did you know they are actually two very different types of animals? In this article, we’ll compare the armadillo vs. the pangolin as we discuss each animal, whether they are related, and some of their similarities and differences. Ready to get started?
What You'll Learn Today
What is an Armadillo?
An armadillo is a mammal native to North, Central, and South America. There are 20 species of armadillo, none of which are endangered (though a couple of them are considered vulnerable).
Armadillos are covered in hard body armor that look similar to the plate armor of the Middle Ages. Most armadillos are light to dark gray, though some are more flesh-colored or brownish.
Armadillos have triangular snouts, large, pointed ears, rounded bodies, and stubby legs. They also have long, skinny tails.
Armadillos are insectivores that eat mostly worms, grubs, termites, ants, and other insects. They are mostly solitary creatures, though they sometimes come together to sleep in groups and to mate.
Depending on the species, armadillos give birth to between 1 and 8 babies each year. The average lifespan of an armadillo is about 12 to 15 years in the wild, though they may live more than 20 years in captivity.
What is a Pangolin?
A pangolin is a mammal found in various regions throughout Africa and Asia. There are 8 species of pangolin, many of which are considered endangered because they are frequently poached for their scales.
Though pangolins are mammals, their body armor makes them look a bit more like reptiles–especially small dinosaurs. They are covered in hard, pointed scales that are typically dark brown to light yellow brown in color.
Pangolins have long, pointed snouts, small, rounded ears, and short, armored limbs. Their long, thick tails are covered in scales like the rest of their bodies, and their bodies are rounded.
Pangolins are insectivores that especially enjoy eating ants and termites, though they will occasionally eat other foods such as the bark off trees. They are extremely solitary, coming together only for the purpose of mating.
Most pangolins give birth to only one baby each year, though some species have up to three babies each season. It is unknown how long they can live in the wild, but they are known to live about 20 years in captivity.
Are Armadillos and Pangolins Related?
Armadillos and pangolins are both mammals, but that is where the relationship ends – they belong to very different genera and are classified under different orders of mammals.
What’s more, their territories don’t overlap. Armadillos are found only in the New World, while pangolins are native to the Old World.
In short, they are two very different types of animals that are often confused because they both have body armor to protect them from predators.
Armadillo Vs. Pangolin: The Similarities
- Both are mammals: Both pangolins and armadillos are warm-blooded, give birth to live young, and nurse their babies, so they are both considered mammals.
- Both have body armor: As noted above, both armadillos and pangolins are covered in body armor. This is one of the primary reasons they are often confused for one another, though they don’t really look alike–the armor of armadillos is more like plate armor while the armor of pangolins is hard, overlapping scales.
- Both can curl into a ball: While not all armadillos can do this, those belonging to the three-banded species can and often do roll into a ball to escape predators. All pangolin species are able to do this as well.
- Both eat insects: Both pangolins and armadillos are insectivores that enjoy snacking on termites, ants, and other available insects.
- Both are similar in size: Depending on species, armadillos vary widely in size, ranging from just 3.5 inches and 4 ounces up to 59 inches and 119 pounds. Pangolins also vary in size depending on species, though not quite as much as armadillos–they range from about 12 inches long up to 55 inches and about 73 pounds.
Armadillo Vs. Pangolin: The Differences
- Different scientific names and species: As noted above, pangolins and armadillos belong to different families of animals. The 8 species of pangolin fall under three genera, all of which belong to the Manidae family. The 20 species of armadillo fall under various genera belonging to the Dasypodidae and Chlamyphoridae families, which are in the suborder Cingulata.
- Physical differences: Though both covered with hard body armor, the armadillo’s is usually gray and looks like plate armor, while the pangolin’s is usually brown and consists of overlapping scales. Armadillos have prominent pointy ears, while pangolins have small rounded ears or ear holes. Armadillos have teeth which they use to chew the insects they eat, while pangolins have no teeth–instead, they simply swallow insects whole.
- Found in different parts of the world: Pangolins are found throughout Africa and Asia, especially in tropical environments such as forests, savannas, and even caves. Meanwhile, armadillos are found throughout North, Central, and South America, and they are found primarily in temperate habitats such as semi-deserts and grasslands.
- Endangerment status: Armadillos are widespread and only a couple of species are considered vulnerable. None of them are endangered; in fact, some of them are experiencing increases in their population. Pangolins, on the other hand, are legally protected, but they are still one of the most poached animals in the world as they are hunted for their scales (which are believed to have medicinal properties). Because of this, most pangolin species are highly endangered.
- Movement: Armadillos can move much more quickly than pangolins, reaching maximum speeds of up to 30 miles per hour for short bursts. They also have the ability to walk underwater, as they can hold their breath for several minutes. Meanwhile, pangolins can only reach a maximum speed of about 3 miles per hour. That said, they can sometimes walk on two legs and can climb trees, two skills which come in handy when they’re trying to get away from predators.
Armadillos and pangolins may look similar at first, but they are actually quite different from each other. They belong to different families, live in different parts of the world, and have many different physical characteristics.
Want to learn more? Check out this video for more comparisons and to get a good visual on the physical similarities and differences of armadillos and pangolins.