Pangolin - Manis spp.
The eight species of the pangolin genus, Manis, have been the object of curiosity for centuries, but it wasn’t until recently that their true position in the tree of life was understood. As insect-eating creatures that are highly specialized to lick ants and termites (and other nesting insects) from deep inside their nests, they were long thought to be closely related to the giant anteater and other Xenartha. It turns out, however, that this is an example of convergent evolution, where unrelated species develop the same specialization to perform the same function.
Thanks to genetic studies, we now know that the pangolins are most closely related to the order Carnivora. They’re the only extant member of their own order (Pholidota), however.
In addition to their highly-specialized tongues, pangolins have both scales and fur, providing a tough armor on their back and a soft under-belly, allowing them the ability to roll into a tight ball. Their skunk-like scent glands also allow them to spray an acrid deterrent in the face of predators prior to rolling up. Thanks to these defenses, the only serious predators that pangolins face are humans.
Unfortunately, two species of the genus are now known to be endangered thanks to traditional medicine and smuggling. Protection efforts and enforcement in most areas of rural Asia are lacking due to many factors, and habitat destruction combined with continued hunting does not lead to a positive outlook for those species affected.
The Book of the Animal Kingdom: Mammals. W. Percival Westell, 1910.