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Potto

From Academic Kids

Potto
Conservation status: Lower risk (lc)
Scientific classification
Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Mammalia
Order:Primates
Family:Lorisidae
Genus:Perodicticus
Bennett, 1831
Species:P. potto
Binomial name
Perodicticus potto
(P.L.S. Müller, 1766)

The Potto (Perodicticus potto) is a strepsirrhine primate from the Lorisidae family. It is the only species in genus Perodicticus. The name "Potto" possibly comes from the African word "pata", which means tailless ape. Perodicticus is also known as Bosman's Potto, after its supposed discoverer, and in some English-speaking parts of Africa it is called a Softly-softly. A few closely related species also have "potto" in their name: the two golden potto species (also known as angwantibos) and the False Potto.

Pottos live in tropical Africa, from Guinea to Kenya and into the north of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Pottos grow to a length of 30 to 40 cm with a short (3 to 10 cm) tail and their maximum weight is 1.5 kg. The close, woolly fur is grey brown. The index finger is vestigal, although they have opposable thumbs with which they grasp branches firmly. At the second toes of the hind legs they have the fine claw typical for strepsirrhines. Three of the vertebrae in the Potto's neck have sharp points and nearly pierce the skin; these are used as defensive weapons. Both males and females have large scent glands under the tail (in females, the swelling created by the glands is known as a pseudo-scrotum), which they use to mark their territories and to reinforce pair bonds. Pottos have a distinct odor that some observers have likened to curry.

Pottos inhabit the canopy of tropical rain forests. They are nocturnal and arboreal, sleeping during the day in the leaves and almost never going on land. Like all lorids, movements are slow and careful.

Studies of stomach contents (cited in Estes, The Behavior Guide to African Mammals, 1991) have shown that the Potto diet consists of about 65% fruit, 21% tree gums and 10% insects. Pottos have also occasionally been known to catch bats and small birds. Their strong jaws enable them to eat fruits and lumps of dried gum that are too tough for other tree-dwellers. The insects they eat tend to have a strong smell, possibly because more palatable insects are snatched up by faster-moving creatures.

Pottos inhabit firm territories which they mark with urine and glandular secretions, and same-sex intruders are vehemently guarded against, although each male's territory generally overlaps with that of two or more females. Females have been known to donate part of their territories to their daughters, but sons leave their mother's territory upon maturity.

Although they do not live in social groups, Pottos often meet for bouts of mutual grooming, which is frequently performed while they hang upside down from a branch. Grooming consists of licking, combing fur with the grooming claw and teeth, and anointing with the scent glands.

Ursula Cowgill, a biologist at Yale University who looked after six captive Pottos for several decades, noticed that they appeared to form altruistic relationships. The captive Pottos were seen to spend time with a sick companion and to save food for an absent one. However, there is no confirmation that this behaviour occurs in the wild.

Pottos have relatively few predators, but are sometimes harassed by African Palm Civets. If threatened, a Potto will hide its face and neck-butt its opponent, making use of its unusual vertebrae.

Pottos are quiet creatures. Their commonest call is a high-pitched 'tsic,' which is used mainly between mother and offspring.

After a gestation of about 170 days the female gives birth. Births are typically of a single young, but twins are known to occur. The young first are clasped to the belly of the mother, but later she carries them on her back. She can also hide her young in the leaves while searching for food. After about four to five months they are weaned and are fully mature after about 18 months. The highest recorded life span for a Potto in captivity is 26 years.

The Potto is not particularly familiar to people outside Africa, but some will know it from its appearance in Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey-Maturin novels. Virginia Woolf's nickname was 'Potto,' and James Thurber sketched a Potto for a series of animal cartoons. André Gide wrote a autobiographical story entitled Dindiki ou le pérodictique potto.

External links

de:Potto

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