But What Does It Look Like?

A New Pangolin Species Discovered

But No One Knows What It Looks Like

Chinese researchers claim to have discovered a new species of Pangolin. For those of you who don’t know what pangolins are. Think “small ant-eater covered in scales from head to toe”.

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The discovery has the science community in a rage of excitement as they will now have to find this new species in the field. The reason for this? Well, the scientists who discovered this species did so by analyzing pangolin scales which were confiscated from poachers in the illegal trade. The discovery was made on a molecular level, determining that the DNA found in the scales differentiates it from other known pangolin species. Named Manis mysteria, this newly discovered pangolin species is just that, a mystery. Now that scientists have discovered a new species of pangolin, the question is where will we find this pangolin? From the DNA research, they’ve managed to determine that this species holds its origin in Asia, but where exactly we don’t know.

Until now, there were eight classified species of Pangolin. Four Asian species and four African species, meaning that this is the ninth species added to the taxonomic family. Besides Manis mysteria, the most recent pangolin species discovered was the Phillippine Pangolin (Manis culionensis). Other reports claim that this species was discovered over 100 years ago. When in fact it was only described as a separate species in 1998 (split from Sunda Pangolin).

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What amazes me about this discovery, is the fact that in 2023 we have the privilege of discovering new wildlife species. We have never known more about our planet than we do in this day and age. But for all we know, there is still so much that we don’t know, and this is an exciting thought.

The age of technology has allowed us to study our natural world in a level of detail like never before. DNA plays such a pivotal role in the classification of organisms and shapes the way we view our weird, wonderful world! I don’t know about you, but in my limited experience in DNA classifications of wildlife, I mostly know about various bird species being, lumped, split and re-lumped as scientists learn more and more on a DNA level. But discovering a new mammal species solely by testing the DNA of its scales, knowing that there’s an actual specimen running around in the wilds of Asia somewhere, blows my mind!

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Pangolin Illegal Trade

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Pangolin Scales

Pangolins are regarded as the most trafficked animal in the world, with the illegal trade valued at $600.00 per kilogram. Weighing anything between 12-33 kg, depending on the species, means a single pangolin could be worth upwards of $ 19,800.00. So the importance of finding live specimens of this newly discovered species can’t be overstated! We need to find them in the wild, and fast.

Pangolins in general aren’t as widely studied as other more prolofic wildlife species. There is still so much we need to learn and observe, and it’s up to us to ensure the continuation of all NINE pangolin species.

If you want to learn more about Africa’s pangolin species and see how you can get involved, visit the African Pangolin Working Group website. They do some great work and are one of the forerunners in Pangolin conservation.