Prosimians

Several species of prosimians dwell on the African continent, though they differ somewhat in both size and appearance from their lemur relatives living out east in Madagascar.  All African prosimians are all generally nocturnal, scouring their tree habitats for tasty food items such as fruit, tree gums, and insects, and many of their features correspond with this “open-all-night” lifestyle. One grouping of African prosimians is the pottos, which are found in both Central Africa and along the western coast. And, if slowly, slowly goes the sloth, then “softly, softly” goes the potto, as indicated by the African meaning of the name.

 

Pottos are types of lorids, slow and careful creepers that make every move with uttermost caution. Their unusual hands reflect this means of movement which requires incredibly strong grasping ability, and the potto’s pointer fingers are virtually nonexistent, allowing the thumb and middle finger to come together something like a crab pincher. This grip is so strong, even from birth, and baby pottos are often left dangling from branches by their mothers when mom goes out to forage.  (Please don’t try this with your own infant. It wouldn’t be comical, not in the least.)

How do these slow moving primates avoid being eaten?  The pattern of fur on their bodies is camouflaged to blend in perfectly with their habitat, making their slow movements virtually undetectable by most predators. If a predator does come along, the potto has an unusual defense, since its neck bones have spiny protrusions that stick out and are covered with thick fur and skin. Pottos will use this unusual anatomy to bump predators off trees and send them toppling to the ground. Another type of prosimian living in Africa is the Angwantibo (Arctocebus calabarensis). Sometimes referred to as the Golden Potto, these guys and gals are small and thin relative to other pottos and are only found in a small portion of west central Africa.

 

Like the pottos, bushbabies (galagos) are nocturnal prosimians living in Africa, but differ from pottos in the way they look and behave. Registering extremely high on the cuteness scale, bushbabies can be easily recognized by their disproportionately large ears (great for detecting the music of the night), long tails (used to help balance while leaping about), and small body size (squirrel-like). Rather than slow, cumbersome climbing, bushbabies are great leapers, hurling their tiny bodies 20 feet or more as they move from tree to tree looking for tasty insects and fruit to gobble.

And now, without further ado, we’d like to take the time to announce the winners of our Annual Galagos Pageant!  Oooh…Aaah!  (Ok, so maybe it’s just a once in a lifetime event, but we’ll see how it catches on.) Though there are at least 11 species of galagos, only a few were able to beat out their competitors for these coveted recognition. We’re proud to announce this year’s awards:

Biggest Baby …Thick tailed-bushbabies (Otolemur crassicaudatus)

Claim to fame: they are the largest galagos found throughout southern and eastern parts of Africa and measuring a little under the average man’s foot length at 10.5 inches. They’d like to thank their mothers at this time for never making fun of their big ears.

Wandering Baby…Senegal bushbabies (Galago senegalensis)

These buddies have really spread themselves around! Ranging from the western parts of Senegal all the way to the eastern portions of Africa, Senegal bushbabies take full advantage of Africa’s diverse array of habitats. They’d like to give props to their elongated ankle bones for providing their transportation.

Baby with the Biggest Heart…Demidoff’s bushbabies (Galagoides demidoff)

It’s only natural that the galago with the smallest stature would get the award for courage and fortitude. Despite only weighing 60 grams or so (that equals half a cup of flour), these tiny primates boldly go out alone at night in search of a scrumptious insect dinner and often make loud calls announcing their presence, tiny as that presence may be.  At this time, the dwarf galagos would like to show appreciation for the beetles that gave their lives to serve as bushbaby sustenance and help boost them over the 50 gram mark.

Nonconformist Award…Needle-clawed bushbabies (Euoticus elegantulus)

Defying the traditional primate pattern with their claw-like nails, and forcing many a primatologist to ponder, what exactly is the difference between a nail and a claw anyway?  The needle-clawed bushbaby is a pro at using their claw-like nails to stick into trees while ripping the bark apart with sharp teeth to get at the sweet gum underneath. These guys would not like to thank anyone at this time since they were unable to pass through the security screening at the airport.