Exotic pangolin lizard has a contradictory appearance. The mammal is similar in shape to an anteater covered with pineapple scales. To meet such a miracle is like getting into the nature of prehistoric times.
The animal is ranked among the order of cymolestes, as it was believed, extinct creatures in the Miocene era. A reliable pedigree of the lizards has not yet been finally compiled.
Description and features
Pangolin name speaking - translated from the Malay language means "forming a ball". The Chinese paid attention to the features of a reptile and a fish in the guise of an animal, therefore, they considered it a dragon carp.
The ancient Romans saw terrestrial crocodiles in pangolins. A number of features, in particular the way of feeding, brings animals closer to armadillos, anteaters.
The lamellar scales of a rhombic shape are very hard, similar to armor. Horny scales are composed of keratin. This substance is at the base of human nails, hair, and is part of the horns of a rhinoceros. The edges of the plates are so sharp that they cut like blades.
They are updated over time. The hard and sharp shell protects the animals. In danger, the pangolin curls up into a tight ball, the animal hides its head under the tail. Areas without scales - belly, nose, inner sides of the paws, also remain inside the ball. They are covered with short hair with coarse hair.
When the animal curls up, it becomes like a spruce cone or a huge artichoke. Pangolin scales mobile, superimposed on each other like shingles, does not interfere with the movements of the pangolin.
The body of a mammal is from 30 to 90 cm long. The tail is approximately equal in length to the body, performs grasping functions - pangolins can hang on it from tree branches. The weight of the animals is proportional to the size - from 4.5 to 30 kg. The scales are about a fifth of the total weight of the animal. Females are slightly smaller than males.
Powerful limbs are short, five-toed. The front legs are more powerful than the hind legs. Each finger is topped with a large horny outgrowth for digging anthills. The length of the middle claws reaches 7.5 cm, because of them interfering with movement when walking pangolin bends the front paws.
The narrow muzzle of the animal is elongated, on the tip there is a mouth opening with lost teeth. Swallowed pebbles and sand serve to grind food. In the stomach, they grind the contents, cope with processing. From the inside, the walls are protected by keratinized epithelium, equipped with a fold with horny teeth.
The eyes are small, securely closed from insects by thick eyelids. Ears are missing or vestigial. The thick tongue of the lizard is unusually long, up to 40 cm, covered with sticky saliva. The animal can stretch the tongue, making it thin up to 0.5 cm.
The motor muscles to control the tongue follow through the chest cavity to the animal's pelvis.
The color of the scales is predominantly gray-brown, which helps mammals to be unnoticed in the surrounding landscape. Pangolins have few enemies due to reliable shields, the ability, like skunks, to exude liquid with an unpleasant odor. Hyenas, large predators of the feline family, can cope with the lizard.
The main enemy of the exotic lizard is man. Animals are hunted for meat, scales, skins. In some African countries, China, Vietnam, restaurants buy pangolins for exotic dishes.
In Asian folk traditions, lizard scales are medicinal, which contributes to the extermination of animals. Many species of pangolins have become endangered species. The slow growth of mammals, the difficulties of keeping in captivity due to food characteristics, lead to the gradual disappearance of rare inhabitants of the planet.
Types of pangolin
Eight species of rare representatives of the order of pangolins have survived. Differences in African and Asian animals are manifested in the number and shape of the scales, the density of the coating with a protective shell, and the peculiarities of color. Seven species are considered the most studied.
Asian species are small in size, with wool seedlings at the base of the scutes. Found on hillsides, in meadows, in humid forests. Rare, small populations.
Chinese lizard. The body of the animal is round with a bronze color. The length reaches 60 cm. Inhabits the territory of Northern India, China, Nepal. The main feature is the presence of developed auricles, for which the animal was nicknamed the eared pangolin. Moves on the ground, but climbs a tree in case of danger.
Indian lizard. Leads land life in the foothills, on the plains of Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, India. The length of the lizard reaches 75 cm. The color is yellowish-gray.
Javanese lizard. It settles in the forest thickets of Thailand, Vietnam and other countries of Southeast Asia. Lives in the Philippines, Java island. A distinctive feature is that females are larger than males. Animals move confidently on the ground and in trees.
African pangolins are larger than their Asian relatives. 4 species of lizards, both terrestrial and arboreal, are well studied.
Steppe (savannah) lizard. Inhabitant of the steppe regions of southeast Africa. The color of the scales is brown. The size of adults reaches 50-55 cm. It digs holes several meters long. In the depths of the shelter there is a large chamber, the size of which allows a person to fit.
Giant lizard. In length, males of pangolins reach 1.4 m, females do not exceed 1.25 m. The weight of a large individual is 30-33 kg. There is practically no wool. A distinctive feature is the presence of eyelashes. Large lizards are colored reddish-brown. The habitat of giant pangolins is located along the equator in western Africa, Uganda.
Long-tailed lizard. Prefers woody life. Differs from congeners by the longest tail of 47-49 vertebrae, four-fingered paws. Lives in the swampy forests of West Africa, in Senegal, Gambia, Uganda, Angola.
White-bellied lizard. It differs from other types of pangolin in small scales. It is the smallest lizard, whose body is 37-44 cm long and weighs no more than 2.4 kg. The length of the prehensile tail in relation to the size of the body is significant - up to 50 cm.
White-bellied representatives live in the forests of Senegal, Zambia, Kenya. The name is derived from the white color of the unprotected skin on the belly of the animal. Scales of brown, dark brown color.
Filipino lizard. Some sources identify the island species of pangolins - endemic to the Palawan province.
Lifestyle and habitat
In equatorial and southern Africa, southeast Asia, the habitat of pangolins is concentrated. Wet forests, open steppes, savannas are preferred for their lifestyle. The secretive existence makes it difficult to study the lizards. Many aspects of their lives remain mysterious.
Most of all, lizards inhabit places rich in ants and termites. Insects are only the main food of mammals, and pangolins use their dwellings for cleansing from parasites.
Pangolins stir up anthills, open the scales for access to indignant inhabitants. Numerous ants attack the invader, bite the skin of the animal, and spray it with formic acid. Pangolin undergoes a cleansing procedure.
After the completion of sanitization, the lizard closes the scales, swatting insects as if in a trap. There is a second traditional way of hygiene procedures - the usual bathing in ponds.
Nocturnal animals live alone. During the day, terrestrial species hide in animal burrows, arboreal ones hide in the crowns of trees, hang on their tails along the branches, practically merging with the environment. Pangolins are climbed onto the trunks with the help of the front claws, the tail flaps serve as a support, support in lifting. Not only to climb, but also to swim, the lizards know how to excellently.
The animal is characterized by caution, solitude. Pangolin is a quiet animal, it emits only hiss and puffs. The lizards move slowly, the animal bends its claws, steps on the ground with the outer sides of its paws. Walking on its hind legs is faster - at a speed of up to 3-5 km / h.
He will not be able to escape from the enemy, so he is saved battleship pangolin magic twisting into a ball. When attempting to unfold, the lizard throws out a caustic secret with a pungent odor, which frightens off enemies.
Seeing and hearing pangolins is unimportant, but they smell great. The whole way of life is subordinated to the signals of smell. They inform their relatives about their presence with scent marks on the trees.
Pangolin lizards are insectivorous animals. At the heart of the diet are varieties of termites and ants, their eggs. Other food does not attract mammals. Narrow food specialization, monotonous diet becomes the main barrier for keeping animals in captivity, at home.
During the night, the giant pangolin eats up to 200,000 ants while hunting. In the stomach, the total weight of the feed is approximately 700 grams. A hungry animal can destroy a large colony of ants in half an hour, fill the stomach with food up to 1.5-2 kg. Pangolin food from insects is dry, so animals need constant access to water bodies.
It is no coincidence that mammals prefer to live in tropical rainforests. Lizards drink water like anteaters, with their tongue moistened and sucked into their mouths.
Powerful claws on their paws help pangolins to destroy earthen nests of termites. The animal persistently breaks the walls of the anthills. Then he probes the ant dwelling with a long tongue. The saliva of the lizards has a sweet aroma, similar to the smell of honey.
Ants stick to a thin tongue. When there are enough of them, the pangolin pulls its tongue into its mouth, swallows the prey. If the anthill cannot be overcome at one time, the pangolin treats the colony with saliva, like glue, in order to return the next day for prey.
Another way of obtaining food from woody pangolins. They penetrate insect nests under the bark of trees. Lizards hanging on their tails catch the places of prey accumulation, tear off pieces of bark with their claws and launch a sweet tongue inside.
From insect bites, the lizard covers its eyes with fleshy eyelids, the nostrils are protected by special muscles.
In addition to ants, termites, certain species of pangolins feed on crickets, worms, and flies.
Swallowed pebbles and sand contribute to the digestion of food. They grind insects, and the horny teeth in the stomach, the coarse epithelium from the inside help the digestion of food.
Reproduction and life expectancy
The mating season for pangolins begins in autumn, at the beginning of September. The duration of bearing offspring in the Indian species is up to 70 days, in the steppe and white-bellied lizards - up to 140 days. African lizards get one cub each, Asian - up to three. The weight of the babies is about 400 g, the length is up to 18 cm.
After birth, the scales of the young are soft, hardening after a few days. After 2-3 weeks, the babies cling to the mother's tail, follow it until they become independent. Insect feeding begins at about one month. In case of danger, mothers curl up around babies. Pangolins become sexually mature by 2 years.
The life of pangolins lasts about 14 years. Breeding specialists are trying to increase the population, prolong the life of these amazing lizards, but there are many difficulties in obtaining healthy offspring of these rare animals.
Many people know pangolin in the photo, but the main thing is to preserve it in the natural environment so that the ancient history of their existence is not cut short by human fault.
Characteristics of portulacaria
The structure and color of the leaves
Blooms very rarely
Achene. Rarely formed
Seeds, layering, cuttings
According to its botanical characteristics, Portulakariya (Portulakariya) is a shrub or a small tree that looks very similar to a fat woman, with a smooth trunk capable of holding water for a long time, with wrinkled bark. The trunk usually stretches towards the light and gradually takes on an unusual shape. A large number of shoots develop on the trunk. At a young age, the color of the bark of the plant varies from burgundy to crimson. Over time, it takes on a brown color.
At home, the portulacaria is capable of reaching 350 cm in height. At home, it grows into a small tree.
The plant has a powerful, rapidly growing rhizome of light or dark brown hue, which supplies the bush with nutrients even in harsh conditions.
Platinum leafs are round or elliptical, juicy, with a smooth surface, shiny, pale green hue, oppositely located, up to 3 cm long, up to 2 cm wide. A large amount of moisture accumulates in the leaves, therefore they are thick and fleshy. Thanks to this feature, the plant can do without watering for a long time. Leaves are formed only on new shoots. There are forms with variegated foliage.
The inflorescences are aciniform, about 9 cm long, formed in the upper part of the shoots, consist of five-petal flowers 2.5 cm in diameter, light pink or yellow in color.
During flowering, a huge number of small buds with a light pleasant aroma appear on the purslane bush. However, at home, a succulent rarely pleases flower growers with flowering.
Portulacaria Afra (African): description and photo
African Portulacaria or Afra (Portulacaria afra) is a succulent tree with a spreading crown, which quickly transforms from a young shrub about 20 cm high into a large bush reaching 80 cm.
In tropical conditions, it grows up to 4 m. At home, if you do not carry out regular pruning, this species can grow up to 2 m, so the formation of a bush is a necessary procedure when growing it.
When describing the African variety, it is worth noting that the plant is multi-stemmed, with thick, fleshy reddish-brown shoots. The bark is smooth, reddish or burgundy. Over time, the bark on the trunk becomes wrinkled.
As you can see in the photo below, the leaves of the Afra portulacaria succulent are obovate, bright green, up to 1.5 cm long, oppositely located:
Thanks to the bright contrast of shoots and leaves, as well as the large number of leaves on the tree, resembling small discs, it looks very impressive.
Indoor blooming is an extremely rare event. The bush can bloom only a few years after planting, but only under ideal conditions for it. The flowers are star-shaped, five-petaled, pale pink.
Based on this variety, several interesting forms have been derived.
Portulacaria afra variegata (variegated) and tricolor
Portulacaria afra variegata or variegated - a bush with a thick lignified trunk, which at home grows no more than 100 cm. It has round or obovate, fleshy leaves of a rich green hue with a silvery stripe along the edge. Leaves cover the shoots densely, making the plant look very interesting. There are many thin strokes on the surface of the leaf plates. Shoots are fleshy, red-brown.
Portulacaria variegated tricolor - a small tree up to 1 m in height with a thick brown trunk, from which a large number of shoots of a bright pink hue emerge chaotically. The leaves are small, fleshy, rounded, with a pale green central part and a wide silvery border along the edge.
The best varieties of portulacaria
Several varieties of portulacaria are known in floriculture:
Limpopo - differs in larger leaves than in other species and varieties of this culture,
"Aurea" - miniature bush with yellow teardrop-shaped leaves,
"Foliis variegatus" - one of the most decorative varieties of portulacaria, characterized by variegated foliage,
"Medio-picta" - variegated variety with a pale green central part of the leaf,
"Armiana" - a plant with rounded gray-green glossy leaf plates,
"Carrissoana" - a compact bush with obovate flat light green leaves,
"Fruticulosa" - a small tree with a spreading crown and rounded flat leaves of a light green hue. The flowers on the plant are bisexual,
"Pygmaea" - a dwarf variety with short hanging brown shoots and bluish-green teardrop-shaped leaves,
Conditions for keeping portulacaria
It is an easy-care, but capricious plant. Next, we will talk about how to grow it correctly, what you need to consider in order to achieve high results and get the perfect bonsai tree.
Lighting. When caring for purslane at home, it is important to remember that the shrub develops only in bright sunlight, which it should receive as often as possible. It is recommended to place the succulent in direct sunlight, it will only benefit from this, showing its decorative qualities as much as possible. The flower should constantly be in a room with good lighting, therefore, in winter, when daylight hours are reduced, you need to put it on those window sills where it will receive as much light as possible, for example, on the southern, partially southern, or at least western. Artificial supplementary lighting will not benefit the purslane flower, so there is no need for it.
Air temperature. The most comfortable room temperature for a tree is 22 - 27 degrees. However, this plant feels good even in extreme heat, the main thing is that it should not be constant. In winter, purslane is better to stay in a cool room with a temperature of 8 - 15 degrees. In the summer, it is better to keep the plant outdoors. In the room where the succulent grows, air must constantly circulate. The windows should be kept open as often as possible.
Watering. This crop needs constant but moderate watering. Portulacaria is sensitive to waterlogging of the soil, so you should carefully monitor whether the earthen lump has dried well before moistening it. A succulent plant will tolerate prolonged drought much easier than excess moisture. He can do without water for a long time.
In winter, you need to water the plant 1 - 2 times a month, maintaining light soil moisture.
It is necessary to transfer the shrub from the winter watering regime to the summer one slowly, gradually increasing the number of waterings and their volumes.
A succulent plant does not need high air humidity; when growing, spraying is not required. It is better to remove dust from sheet plates with a damp cloth.
Top dressing. When breeding purslane, there are several fertilization options. You can feed the plant at the beginning of the growing season using a complete cactus mineral complex. Many growers apply fertilizer several times a year from spring to autumn, doing this work 2 times a month. So they try to create more familiar conditions for the plant.
Formation and pruning of portulacaria. This plant easily tolerates pruning. In addition, it must be shaped in order to obtain the desired shape. This can be done at any time of the year, since the bush quickly recovers even after heavy pruning.
Since the succulent grows quickly, you should pinch it and cut off the elongated shoots regularly.
The best time for pruning is spring, and you can pinch the bush whenever you want. This will not affect his well-being in any way. If the grower does not neglect the formation, as a result, without much effort and the use of wire, which is usually used for bonsai, he will receive a shrub with a beautiful crown shape.
Transfer. An adult succulent is transplanted only as needed, when its roots are completely entwined with an earthen ball and it becomes cramped in the pot. Young individuals need to be transplanted once every couple of years.
For this culture, massive tubs, large ceramic wide pots are suitable. The substrate is taken ready for succulents, or they make it themselves, mixing leaf and garden soil, river sand and charcoal. The soil for portulacaria should be loose, nutritious, slightly acidic or with a neutral reaction. At the bottom of the pot, a drainage layer 4 - 6 cm thick must be laid, using expanded clay, clay shards or other material for this.
In the process of transplanting, the roots are shortened by 1/3 to stop the intensive growth of the plant. The tree is removed from the old pot and placed in a new one filled with fresh substrate, adding the required amount of soil to the voids and tamping it tightly.
Propagation of portulacaria by cuttings
Cuttings are the most common breeding method for the portulacaria succulent. This work is carried out in the spring. Sufficiently long shoots with four internodes are chosen, the lower leaves are cut off from them, 2 - 3 upper leaves are left. Then the cutting is removed for a day in a separate place so that the sections are covered with a film. After that, the cuttings are buried 3 to 4 cm into a moistened soil mixture consisting of an equal volume of peat and sand. Above, the handle is covered with a glass jar or a plastic cap made from a bottle with a cut off top in order to create a kind of mini greenhouse for it. The shelter is cleaned daily to ventilate the greenhouse. After 7 - 10 days, it is removed, after another 14 days, the roots should grow from the cutting. Throughout the entire period, the container with the handle is kept in a warm room with a temperature of 20 - 25 degrees and bright diffused light. The earth lump is moistened as it dries, preventing it from overmoistening.
Cuttings with an overgrown root system are transplanted into a pot to a permanent place after a couple of months.
Propagation of portulacaria by seeds and layering
Since succulent seeds are rarely seen in stores, portulacaria breeding is rarely possible with them. But sometimes this method is still used among florists.
For planting, take a wide container, which is filled with light nutritious soil and moistened. The seed is evenly distributed over its surface. Crops are covered with thick plastic wrap or glass and placed in a warm, bright room. You should not keep the container with the planted seeds on the windowsill, where direct sunlight falls, or you will need to create shading.
The shelter is removed daily so that the crops are aired. Irrigation of the soil is carried out using a spray gun. So it will be possible to avoid waterlogging of the earthen coma. When the first shoots appear, the shelter is completely removed. Plants with 2 - 3 leaves are transplanted into separate pots.
Reproduction of portulacaria by layering is possible if this plant already exists in the apartment. To do this, take a branch and tilt it to the ground itself, trying to fix it well so that it cannot rise. After 2 to 3 weeks, the cuttings will take root, after which it is separated from the mother plant.
Difficulties in growing portulacaria
When breeding a succulent, a florist may encounter some difficulties, which most often arise due to improper care of a tropical exotic. So, with excessive watering, when the soil does not have time to completely dry out, but it is moistened again, the leaves begin to turn yellow and wither. In order for the foliage to recover, you need to carefully monitor the state of the earthen coma and irrigate with the complete drying of its top layer.
With a lack of light, as well as with an excess of moisture in the soil, shoots begin to stretch. The same reasons serve to the fact that the leaves of the portulacaria fall, especially this phenomenon can be observed in winter, when the length of daylight hours decreases.
When the portulacaria does not have enough light, or the leaves fade from waterlogged soil, the weakened succulent can quickly attack diseases and pests. Most often these are aphids, mealy worms, spider mites and scale insects.