Happy World Pangolin Day! Discover 4 Mind-Boggling Pangolin Features

For World Pangolin Day, this graphic has a picture of a pangolin crawling on top of a tree trunk. Tobin, also a pangolin, is in the bottom left corner, holding a paw near his smile.

World Pangolin Day is celebrated every February to raise awareness about pangolins– including our favorite pangolin, Tobin, from The Nocturnals book series by Tracey Hecht. You may have noticed pangolins are unique-looking creatures, but what you may not know is that pangolins' features are designed to help them survive. All their physical attributes perform a specific job! Here are four features that help pangolins defend themselves in the wild.

1.) Sharp Scales
Have you noticed that pangolins look like they wear armor? In a way, they do! Pangolins have scales that are made of keratin, the same material that is in our fingernails. These keratin scales form a hard, protective shell. And pangolin scales are sharp! In The Mysterious Abductions, Bismark calls Tobin a “strange creature with a back of blades.” These jagged scales come in handy when predators attack.

2.) Stop, Drop, and Roll
A picture of a pangolin rolled into a ball, showing only their protective scales as a defense mechanism.

When pangolins feel threatened, they make the most of their scales by rolling up into a ball so that their soft belly is protected and only their scales are exposed. Most predators—even lions! —decide not to bother with pangolins when they’re rolled up. Whenever Tobin is scared, he curls up as a way of protecting himself, too.

3.) A Smelly Safeguard
Not only do pangolins curl up to protect themselves, but they also spray a foul-smelling chemical to ward off predators. This smell comes from the scent glands at the end of their tail. Remember when Bismark the sugar glider complained about how stinky Tobin was when they first met? That was because Tobin sprayed his odor when Bismark startled him! Sometimes, Tobin is embarrassed by his bad smell, but he shouldn’t be! Spraying that odor helps him survive.

4.) Superb Senses
Pangolins have poor eyesight, but their heightened senses of smell and hearing make up for this! Their long snouts make their noses very sensitive. In The Fallen Star, Tobin helps his friends find Iris the aye-aye by following her scent. And such a skillful nose comes in handy for protection, too—instead of needing to see a predator, a pangolin can detect its presence by smelling it and have time to escape!
Pangolins are some of the most unique and fascinating animals on the planet. Learning about them and raising awareness of their threats are two of the best ways we can protect them. 

You can find even more astounding facts about pangolins and other endangered nocturnal animals in the NEW Nocturnals nonfiction book series!

The Nocturnals Early Reader and Middle Grade Nonfiction Books

For Kids Ages 6–8: The Nocturnals Presents Nighttime Animals: Awesome Features & Surprising Adaptations


For Kids Ages 9–12: The Nocturnals Explore Unique Adaptations of Nighttime Animals