Know Your Primate: Nycticebus coucang

Order: Primates
Suborder: Strepsirrhini
Family: Lorisidae
Genus: Nycticebus
Species: Nycticebus coucang
Common Name: Slow Loris
Nycticebus is a genus containing two allopatric species (Nycticebus coucang and Nycticebus pygmaeus). The slow loris is native to parts of Bangladesh, Assam, Burma, Vietnam, Thailand, parts of Malay peninsula, and parts of the Philippines. They occupy primary and secondary forests, and bamboo forests.


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They are nocturnal and largely aboreal animals, spending little time on the ground. They have a number of interesting adaptations to aboreal life such as a big toe set widely apart from the rest of the toes and extra thoracic vertebra. Like other strepsirrhines, they have a grooming claw on their second digit and a tooth comb. They also have a vestigial tail and brachial glands that secret a toxin – possibly used in defense.
Slow lorises eat insect, bird’s eggs, young birds, and fruits and plants. As the ADW puts it:

They move slowly toward their prey so as not to frighten it away, but once they are within striking range, lorises move quickly to subdue their prey. The grip of the slow loris’s hind feet is so strong that it often gathers food hanging upside down using its front hands to capture and hold prey.

Slow lorises are monogamous and form family groups. The males are highly territorial and mark their territory with urine (they also engage in urine washing). Male offspring are driven off by the father at around 12-14 months of age.
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8 Responses

  1. brachial glands that secret a toxin – possibly used in defense.
    Seriously – a poisonous primate?
    Okay, I used to favor Ring-tailed lemurs solely for the cuteness factor, but the Slow Loris just became my new favorite Strepsirrhine.

  2. Sir,
    Asssam India we see the annimal Nycticebus coucang .

  3. Having gone to a lecture at Bristol Zoo yesterday I can confirm that they are even weirder than that. N.pygmaeus in the north of its range and at high altitudes appears to go into seasonal torpor, and the number of species of Loris and Nycticebus is a great deal higher than that in the literature. The toxin is enough to cause a severe and life threatening allergic reaction in humans – the researcher mentioned one of her colleagues who was bitten and was hospitalised. Also, the diet as reported in old literature for lorises is probably inaccurate – they are highly predatory, may have a fondness for poisonous insects, and Nycticebus at least appears to feed extensively on gum and sap. Vegetable matter is a very small part of the diet. They may also be polyandrous.

  4. Having gone to a lecture at Bristol Zoo yesterday I can confirm that they are even weirder than that. N.pygmaeus in the north of its range and at high altitudes appears to go into seasonal torpor, and the number of species of Loris and Nycticebus is a great deal higher than that in the literature. The toxin is enough to cause a severe and life threatening allergic reaction in humans – the researcher mentioned one of her colleagues who was bitten and was hospitalised. Also, the diet as reported in old literature for lorises is probably inaccurate – they are highly predatory, may have a fondness for poisonous insects, and Nycticebus at least appears to feed extensively on gum and sap. Vegetable matter is a very small part of the diet. They may also be polyandrous.

  5. That bit about poisonous insects is really interesting. I’m going to have to look into it…

  6. According to Simon Bearder (in Primate Societies 1987, Smuts, Cheney, Seyfarth, Wrangham, & Struhsaker, eds.), there are 3 types of loris, Nycticebus pygmaeus of Vietnam, N. coucang of S.E. Asia, Assam and Borneo, and Loris tardigradus of W. Africa, plus the related bushbabies, pottos, and angwantibos of Africa in the family Larisidae, all nocturnal. Lorises, he says move slowly on all fours while bushbabies move vertically & can leap, which lorises can’t. I’ve read elsewhere that urine washing is for sexual signalling but he does not mention this. Diet, he says, includes fruit, gums, & animal prey — never leaves. When a loris meets with a predator, it tucks its head beneath its chest & lunges toward its opponent! In an emergency it will simply drop to the forest floor, altho’ this seems like it would kill a normal beastie. It evidently works. Bushbabies retreat, instead & give alarm calls that lead to mobbing the intruder.

  7. Aha! I didn’t read far enough — Bearder confirms that juveniles follow the mother, learning from her to eat unpalatable prey, “noxious and irritant” bugs, especially those that can be caught with very little movement, altho’ in captivity, when given a choice of tastier prey, they go for it. They use very few vocalizations and show little social interaction. He does not specifically mention mating pattern. Perhaps no one had done a close enough study at that point. He does mention that mothers carry infants ventrally at first, then dorsally, or they will park the older babies somewhere safe to forage, then pick them up to go find a good sleeping spot in dense vegetation. One gets the impression that these were mostly solitary animals.

  8. There is more current information on lorises at http://www.loris-conservation.org. A lot of the subspecies of loris should probably be full species – the situation is rather like that with the galagos in Africa where a lot of cryptic species are involved. The toxin may also be used in protecting the young – mothers cover the babies with it before leaving them parked on branches

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