Researchers from South China Agricultural University believe the pangolin may have spread the deadly coronavirus to humans in China, starting the deadly outbreak, Business Insider reported.It is well-known that the coronavirus is a zoonotic disease, meaning it infected humans after jumping from animals. The most prominent suspicions regarding the outbreak's origins point to bats, or to the Wuhan market. However, while it almost definitely did come from bats, scientists say that another animal likely served as a middle-man of sorts between bats and humans.According to researchers at South China Agricultural University, that animal is the pangolin, a nocturnal mammal living in Asia and Africa, which possess long 16-inch tongues, long tails and large keratin scales covering their skin – notably, they are the only mammal to possess scales. Their name, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is derived from the Malay word pengguling, which means "one who rolls up," referring to how they often roll into balls to protect themselves from predators.In a study, the researchers discovered that the coronavirus samples taken from patients were a 99% identical match to samples of the virus taken from pangolins, according to a report from China's Xinhua news agency. It is hypothesized that pangolins may have become coronavirus carriers due to ingesting bat saliva or feces while eating insects. If a human ate a pangolin carrying the virus, they would be exposed and likely infected.The likelihood of this is high, since despite all eight species facing extinction, pangolins are the most illegally trafficked mammal in the world, second only to humans, and are especially popular in China and Vietnam, where their meat is considered a delicacy and scales are used as important ingredients in both traditional medicine and commercial pharmaceuticals.Though they resemble anteaters and armadillos, pangolins are actually members of the order of carnivorans, alongside the bobcat and the civet, the latter of which was responsible for transmitting the SARS virus from bats to humans in 2002, Business Insider reported.While the data suggesting that pangolins are the intermediary seems strong, finding any concrete proof will be challenging due to the illegal nature of the pangolin trade."If the illegal animal trade was at the root of this outbreak, it is going to be really difficult to trace, and I suspect most of the evidence is gone already – destroyed or spread out across the black market," Texas A&M University virologist Benjamin Neuman told The Washington Post. "People aren't going to want to talk, because of the consequences."The deadly coronavirus outbreak has spread throughout the world since it began in the city of Wuhan in China's Hubei province, infecting over 75,000 people and resulting in over 2,000 deaths.Despite being zoonotic, the World Health Organization said there was a lack of evidence that it could spread to animals.