Sunda slow loris

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Sunda slow loris (Nycticebus coucang) or greater slow loris is a strepsirrhine primate and a species of slow loris native to Indonesia, western Malaysia, southern Thailand and Singapore. It measures 27 to 38 cm (11 to 15 in) from head to tail and weighs between 599 and 685 g (21.1 and 24.2 oz). Like other slow lorises, it has a wet nose (rhinarium), a round head, small ears hidden in thick fur, a flat face, large eyes, small ears and a vestigial tail.
The Sunda slow loris is nocturnal and arboreal, typically occurring in evergreen forests. It prefers rainforests with continuous dense canopies and has an extremely low metabolic rate compared to other mammals of its size. Its diet consists of sap, floral nectar, fruit and arthropods. It will feed on exudates such as gum and sap by licking wounds in trees. The species is generally solitary; one study showed only 8% of its active time was spent near other individuals. Social behavior makes up a very small part of the activity budget, though it has monogamous mating system with the offspring living with the parents. It sleeps during the day, rolled up in a ball in hidden parts of trees above the ground, often on branches, twigs, palm fronds, or lianas. The species is polyoestrous, usually giving birth to a single offspring after a gestation period of 192 days. The young disperses between 16 and 27 months, generally when it is sexually mature.
The species is listed as "Vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List. It is threatened with extinction due to a growing demand in the exotic pet trade, and has become one of the most abundant primate species on sale at Indonesian pet markets. Its teeth are often pulled out before being sold as pets which can result in infection and/or death, this process makes reintroduction to the wild impossible. It also suffers from habitat loss, which has been severe in the areas in which it is found.


The common name, Sunda slow loris, refers to the Sunda Islands, a group of islands in the western part of the Malay archipelago where it is found Another common name for the species is the Greater Slow Loris The specific name, coucang, derives from kukang, its common name in Indonesia. It is commonly known as malu-malu, meaning "shy" in Indonesian, and also as bukang or Kalamasan. It is sometimes called Kuskus, because local people do not distinguish between the slow loris and Cuscus, a group of Australasian possums. In Malaysia they are sometimes known as kongkang or kera duku; kera is Malay for monkey while duku is the fruit-bearing tree, Lansium domesticum In Thailand, it is called ling lom (ลิงลม), which translates as "wind monkey".

Taxonomy and phylogeny

The Sunda slow loris was first described in 1785 by the Dutch physician and naturalist Pieter Boddaert under the name Tardigradus coucang However, its discovery dates to 1770, when the Dutchman Arnout Vosmaer (1720–1799) described a specimen of it as a type of sloth. Vosmaer gave it the French name "le paresseuz pentadactyle du Bengale" ("the five-fingered sloth of Bengal"), but Boddaert later argued that it was more closely aligned with the lorises of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and Bengal.
Between 1800 and 1907, several other slow loris species were described, but in 1952 the primatologist William Charles Osman Hill consolidated all the slow lorises in one species, N. coucang, in his influential book Primates: Comparative Anatomy and Taxonomy. In 1971 Colin Groves recognized the pygmy slow loris (N. pygmaeus) as a separate species, and divided N. coucang into four subspecies, while in 2001 Groves opined there were three species (N. coucang, N. pygmaeus, and N. bengalensis), and that N. coucang had three subspecies (Nycticebus coucang coucang, N. c. menagensis, and N. c. javanicus). These subspecies were promoted in 2010 to species status—the Javan slow loris (N. javanicus) and Bornean slow loris (N. menagensis)—leaving the Sunda slow loris without subspecies. Species differentiation was based largely on differences in morphology, such as size, fur color, and head markings.
When Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire defined the genus Nycticebus in 1812, he made the Sunda slow loris the type species. This was questioned in 1921 by British zoologist Oldfield Thomas, who noted that there was some confusion over the specimen used as the type specimen. Instead, he suggested that the type specimen was actually the Bengal slow loris (N. bengalensis). There was also some confusion during the 1800s when Boddaert's Tardigradus coucang was mistaken for Carl Linnaeus' Lemur tardigradus, which was described in the 10th edition of Systema Naturæ (1758) and referred to a slender loris. However, this was clarified in 1902 by mammalogists Witmer Stone and James A. G. Rehn.
The species has 50 chromosomes (2n=50), and it genome size is 3.58 pg Of its chromosomes, 22 are metacentric, 26 are submetacentric, and none are acrocentric. Its X chromosome is submetacentric, and its Y chromosome is metacentric.
To help clarify species and subspecies boundaries, and to establish whether morphology-based classifications were consistent with evolutionary relationships, the phylogenetic relationships within the genus Nycticebus have been investigated using DNA sequences derived from the mitochondrial markers D-loop and cytochrome b. Although most of the recognized lineages of Nycticebus (including the pygmy slow loris (N. pygmaeus), Bornean slow loris (N. menagensis) and the Javan slow loris (N. javanicus)) were shown to be genetically distinct, the analysis suggested that DNA sequences from some individuals of Sunda slow loris (N. coucang) and Bengal slow loris (N. bengalensis) apparently share a closer evolutionary relationship with each other than with members of their own species. The authors suggest that this result may be explained by introgressive hybridization, as the tested individuals of these two taxa originated from a region of sympatry in southern Thailand; the precise origin of one of the N. coucang individuals was not known. This hypothesis was corroborated by a 2007 study that compared the variations in mitochondrial DNA sequences between N. bengalensis and N. coucang, and suggested that there has been gene flow between the two species.

Physical description


The Sunda slow loris has dark rings around its large eyes, a white nose with a whitish strip that extends to the forehead and a dark stripe that stretches from the back of the head along the spine. Its soft, thick, woolly fur ranges from light brown to deep reddish brown, with a lighter underside. The species is distinct from the Bengal slow loris due to the dark inverse teardrop markings around the eyes which meet the dark dorsal stripe on the back of the head. It tends to have a much more distinct white stripe between the eyes, more distinct dark coloring around the eyes, and a browner coat than the Bengal slow loris which is larger, grayer, and shows less contrast. The Sunda slow loris has less white facial coloring than the much smaller pygmy slow loris.Local color variations are known to occur.
A Sunda slow loris climbs, upside down, along a tree branch
 The Sunda slow loris generally holds branches with at least three limbs at one time.
It measures between 27 and 38 centimetres (11 and 15 in) and weighs 599 and 685 grams (21.1 and 24.2 oz). Unlike the Bengal slow loris, the Sunda slow loris does not show sexual dimorphism by weight. The vestigial tail, hidden beneath the fur, is reduced to a stump. It has a toothcomb, six forward-facing teeth on the bottom jaw, which includes the lower incisors and the canine teeth. The structure is generally used for grooming in other strepsirhine primates, but lorises also use it to scrape off gum when foraging. It has a shortened second digit, and the hands have a strong grip. Like other lorises, it excretes a strong-smelling liquid from glands beneath its arms which is used in communication.
One major distinguishing feature between all loris species is locomotion: the Sunda slow loris moves slowly through trees on all four limbs, typically with three limbs attached to a support at a time. Its movement has been described as unique; similar to crawling, or as if it was climbing in every direction, the Sunda slow loris changes direction or moves between branches with little noise or change in speed. In captivity, about a quarter of its time is spent moving quadrupedally, a quarter suspended or hanging, a quarter climbing, and a quarter clasping multiple branches (bridging). It may hang below a branch by one or both feet for long periods of time.

Behavior and ecology

Like other slow lorises, the Sunda slow loris is an arboreal and nocturnal primate, resting by day in the forks of trees, or in thick vegetation and feeding on fruit and insects by night. Unlike other loris species, it remains in trees most of its life: while the Bengal slow loris will often sleep on the ground, the Sunda slow loris sleeps in a ball in branches or foliage. It usually sleeps alone but has been observed to sleep with several conspecifics (individuals of the same species), including other adults. Adults live in overlapping ranges of 0.004 to 0.25 km2 (0.0015 to 0.097 sq mi).
Despite its slow metabolism rate, the Sunda slow loris has a high-energy diet. Its slow lifestyle may be due to the energy costs of detoxifying certain secondary plant compounds in many genera of food plants their diets. The largest amount of time is spent eating phloem sap (34.9%), floral nectar and nectar-producing plant parts (31.7%), and fruits (22.5%). It also consumes gums and arthropods such as spiders and insects. Gum is taken by licking wounds on trees. They are also known to feed on molluscs, including the giant land snail Achatina fulica, and birds' eggs.
All slow loris species produce a toxin in glands on the insides of their elbows. This is spread across their bodies and those of their offspring using the toothcomb while grooming. When threatened with predators, the Sunda slow loris can bite, roll into a ball exposing its toxic saliva-covered fur, or roll up and drop from the trees. However, the primary method of predator avoidance is crypsis, whereby it hides. The Asiatic Reticulated Python, the Changeable Hawk-eagle and the Bornean Orangutan have been recorded as predators of the Sunda slow loris.


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