So for Google Earth Day's quiz I ended up being a "Pangolin." Turns out I had no idea what it was so I looked into it and honestly it reminded me a lot of an Armadillo. So I decided to find out the difference between the two, and I stumbled across this site.

It was all making sense until I got to the "bullet points" at the bottom where I saw this

Pangolin is a mammal while armadillo is a placental mammal.

And I'm now very confused. I thought placental mammal was just a subset of mammals. And I look up Pangolin's taxonomy and now I'm seeing all kinds of stuff I have no idea how to interpret. Back in my day, it was "Kings Play Cards On Fat Green Stools" for "Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus Species". And now I'm seeing things like clade, infraclass, subcohort, superorder and all kinds of things I just don't get.

So I guess I have many questions, but I'm going to boil it down to "If the Pangolin isn't considered a placental mammal, then what kind of mammal is it, and where does it diverge in taxonomy from the Armadillo?"

Oh, and if someone could point me to a primer on the changes to taxonomy in the last 20 years, that'd be cool too.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Both are placental mammals. $\endgroup$
    – Corvus
    Commented Apr 22, 2015 at 23:18
  • $\begingroup$ Although the Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus Species version of taxonomy is still being taught, it's mostly for convenience's sake. The truth is all higher named clades (like Genera or Orders) are chosen somewhat arbitrarily. So, if people want to talk about a clade that, say contains all of the organisms of several genera but not all of the organisms in the family, they might talk about it as being a subfamily. In short, I would say don't waste your time worrying about the difference between an infraclass and superorder and focus more on comparisons between clades $\endgroup$
    – C_Z_
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 15:10

1 Answer 1


From the Tree of Life page for Mammalia:


All of these groups of animals are mammals, including extinct triconodonts and multituberculates. Among living mammals are monotremes (most notably the platypus), marsupials (kangaroos and opossums), and eutherians. Eutherians are placental mammals, so all eutherians are placental mammals, but not all mammals are eutherians.

Both armadillos and pangolins are eutherian mammals, so both are mammals and both are placentals. "Difference Between" is quite incorrect.


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