Four Canadian Museum of Nature staff members have each adopted a favourite extreme mammal. Follow them in this blog to see what’s so special about these awesome creatures. You’ll be certain to have all the cool and extreme info on these mammals when you search for them during your next visit!

When I returned from my Costa Rican travels in 2005, my head was bursting with weird and wonderful images of the extreme fauna that I encountered. But as my photo memories clearly indicate, I developed a true curiosity and affinity for the giant anteater (Myrmecophaga tridactyla). This big furry and slow moving ant aficionado goes about his day digging around looking for a nice crunchy protein-fix not having to fear much thanks to its impressive body size and claws… after all, it can even scare off a jaguar!

Nathalie Rodrigue stands in front of the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) exhibit in Extreme Mammals.
Nathalie Rodrigue stands in front of the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) exhibit in Extreme Mammals.

This spectacular observation imprinted my nerdy-naturalist mind for a while after my return to my Canadian home town and encouraged me to research this little beast further.

And that’s how I got to know about the Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla). No, no, this time I didn’t get to see a live pangolin in its habitat… although a trip to South-East Asia is definitely on my list.. but I read quite a bit about this scaled relative of the anteater and I was hooked.  And after seeing a real specimen displayed at the Extreme Mammal exhibition, I knew I had found the ONE: my favourite extreme mammal.

Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla).
A Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) in captivity. Image: Leanne Clark © Leanne Clark/Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program

After all, which mammal can claim to have an armoured body, to roll away from predators, to flick out its sticky and muscular tongue to feed only on ants and termites, to dig burrows, to climb trees and to swim?

And to top the extremeness of its nature: the way it eats is unmatched. It’s incredibly long tongue—practically the size of its body (60–80 cm)—is attached near its pelvis and can whip up hundreds of ants and termites in a flick! Given its toothless mouth, the food is brought straight into the stomach cavity, where it is ground up by small pebbles—the way birds do it!

And if this extreme nature of the pangolin is not enough to convince you, did you know that they are masters at controlling insect pests? In a year, a single adult pangolin can feast on 70 million insects!

Despite how incredible this mammal is to me, it is its extremely uncertain future that speaks to me the most. Habitat loss, and most importantly, international unofficial trade of pangolins for their meat and blood in most South Asian countries, is putting these fantastic wonders of nature at risk.

Here’s my call to action: EXTREME MAMMAL LOVERS UNITE and spread the word about the unique nature of these amazing animals—they are living testimonies to our extremely diverse world!

I hope my “peng-goling”—meaning “the roller” in the Malayan language—will keep on rollin’ for my children’s children, who may have the chance to see them alive and well in the wild one day!

Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla).
A Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla). Image: Leanne Clark © Leanne Clark/Carnivore and Pangolin Conservation Program

Extreme Mammals is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York, USA, in collaboration with the Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, USA and the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, USA.