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Greater Slow Loris (Nycticebus coucang)

Posted on Mar 7, 2011 by in Primates | 6 comments

Nycticebus coucang

Number 0357

Now, this is an interesting little primate. The greater slow loris (there are a few other kinds of lorises, as well) lives in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand. It’s nocturnal and its eyes don’t move—it has to turn its head to look around. It’s very solitary, crawling around in the trees, eating sap and fruit and snails and eggs.

Inside each of the slow loris’s elbows, you’ll find a gland that produces a toxin. While there’s still a lot to learn about this substance, some scientists say that the loris will take this toxin into its mouth when it’s threatened, in preparation for biting the threat, and that it also spreads the toxin around its head and neck for protection. Mother slow lorises coat their babies with the stuff, perhaps as a defense. Other scientists seem to think that the toxin is used for olfactory communication rather than defense. The substance is a protein similar to the one in feline saliva and sebum that causes cat allergies, which raises an interesting question about the purpose of that protein in cats. No one knows what exactly it’s for, but it’s possible that it’s a defense, too, and that cats aren’t just grooming when they lick themselves, but spreading a toxin around. Humans who are bitten by slow lorises experience anaphylactic shock, an allergic reaction.

In researching the slow loris, I learned about something called an ethogram. In biology, an ethogram is a catalog or inventory of an animal’s behavior, described in some detail and sorted into categories. I found a loris conservation database that includes an online husbandry manual. In the husbandry manual is this slow loris ethogram. Ethograms don’t have to include illustrations, but this one includes some really nice ones. I wish I’d found it before I did the drawing, and I wish I had ethograms like this one for all the species I draw.

Coco also drew a slow loris. I love her drawing so much. I adore it. It’s beautiful.

Slow loris by Coco, age 12

6 Comments

  1. Wow. What a weird planet we live on.

    Any sentence that begins with a phrase like “Inside each of the slow loris’s elbows…,” you know is going to be a strange sentence.

    I love your loris drawing! And I REALLY love Coco’s drawing! You two make quite a pair!

    • We really do live on a weird planet. Evolution is amazingly beautiful and strange and mind-blowing and everything.

  2. I adore Coco’s drawing–and yours too.

    • Thanks, Kate. I like mine fine, but Coco’s is an all-time great, I think.

  3. I love that Coco is helping. Bring on the team effort! Another blog entry full of beautiful images and fascinating ideas, thank you!

    • Yes, Alexandra, Coco is a great chronicler of mammals! My son used to draw with me, too, but now he’s too teenagery or something, I don’t know. “Sorry Mom, maybe next time, can I get on Fantastic Contraption?”

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