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Volume 27, Number 7—July 2021
Etymologia

Etymologia: Sunda Pangolin

Clyde PartinComments to Author 
Author affiliation: Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

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Sunda Pangolin [′sün də ′paNG ɡōl ən]

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Covered in tough keratin scales interspersed with strands of fur, the pangolin, also known as a scaly anteater, assumes an impenetrable rolled-up position when threatened. Note the short muscular forelimbs. Pangolins are endangered and World Pangolin Day is the third Saturday in February. Photo of a young Chinese pangolin (Manis pentadactyla) by Te-Chuan Chan (Taipei Zoo, Taiwan) and Wen-Ta Li (Pangolin International Biomedical Consultant Ltd., Taiwan)

Figure. Covered in tough keratin scales interspersed with strands of fur, the pangolin, also known as a scaly anteater, assumes an impenetrable rolled-up position when threatened. Note the short muscular forelimbs....

The Sunda or Malayan pangolin (Manis javanica) achieved notoriety during the Coronavirus disease pandemic because of flawed evidence suggesting that pangolins could be intermediate hosts (Figure). Genetic analysis later demonstrated that the spike protein angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 receptor-binding domain of the pangolin had marginal viral avidity and thus was an unlikely infectious conduit. Pangolins are edentate mammals possessing short powerful forelimbs suitable for excavating ants and termites.

Linnaeus named the genus Manis, derived from manes, Latin for “spirits” or “ghosts or shades of the dead,” which refers to their noncuddly reptilian persona and solitary nocturnal foraging. Covered by keratin scales, pangolins, when threatened, assume a rolled up position, described by the Malayan word pengguling (one who rolls up). Native to Java (thus javanica), their habitat includes Southeast Asia, especially the Indomalayan archipelago and Sunda Islands. Humans hunt pangolins for their meat, consume their blood as an elixir, and use their scales and other body parts as ingredients for crafting leather products and nonefficacious medications.

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References

  1. Frutos  R, Serra-Cobo  J, Chen  T, Devaux  CA. COVID-19: Time to exonerate the pangolin from the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to humans. Infect Genet Evol. 2020;84:104493. DOIPubMed
  2. Animal source of the coronavirus continues to elude scientists. Nature. May 18, 2020 [cited 2021 Mar 21]. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-01449-8
  3. Wang  Y, Turvey  ST, Leader-Williams  N. Knowledge and attitudes about the use of pangolin scale products in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). [cited 2021 May 14]. People and Nature. 2020;2:90312. DOI

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Cite This Article

DOI: 10.3201/eid2707.et2707

Original Publication Date: June 11, 2021

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Table of Contents – Volume 27, Number 7—July 2021

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Clyde Partin, Department of Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, 1365 Clifton Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30322-1007, USA

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Page created: June 11, 2021
Page updated: June 16, 2021
Page reviewed: June 16, 2021
The conclusions, findings, and opinions expressed by authors contributing to this journal do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or the authors' affiliated institutions. Use of trade names is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by any of the groups named above.
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