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Potto
Potto
Information
Common Name Bosman's Potto
Range Africa, from Guinea to Kenya and Uganda into the north of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Scientific Classification
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Mammalia
Order Primates
Family Lorisidae
Perodicticinae
Genus Perodicticus
Species Perodicticus potto
Conservation Status
LCSpecies
Least Concern

The Potto (Perodicticus potto), is a species of strepsirrhine primate of the family Lorisidae. It is the only species in genus Perodicticus. It is also known as the Bosman's Potto, after Willem Bosman who described the species in 1704, and in some English-speaking parts of Africa, it is called a "softly-softly".

Taxonomy

There are four recognized subspecies:

  • Perodicticus potto potto
  • Perodicticus potto edwardsi
  • Perodicticus potto ibeanus
  • Perodicticus potto stockleyi

However, variation among pottos is significant, and there may, in fact, be more than one species. A few closely related species also have "potto" in their names: the two Golden Potto species (also known as angwantibos) and the False Potto. Although it has been suggested that the differences that separate the false potto from the potto are a result of an anomalous specimen being used as the holotype which may have been a potto.

Physical Description

The Potto grows to a length of 30 to 39 cm, with a short (3 to 10 cm) tail, and its weight varies from 600 to 1,600 grams (21 to 56 oz). The close, woolly fur is grey-brown. The index finger is vestigial, although it has opposable thumbs with which it grasps branches firmly. Like other strepsirrhines the potto has a moist nose, toothcomb, and a toilet claw on the second toe of the hind legs. In the hands and feet, fingers three and four are connected to each other by a slight skin fold, while toes three through five are joined at their bases by a skin web that extends to near the proximal third of the toes.

Behaviour and Ecology

Predators and Defences

The Potto has relatively few predators, because large mammalian carnivores cannot climb to the treetops where they live, and the birds of prey in this part of Africa are diurnal. One population of chimpanzees living in Mont Assirik, Senegal, was observed to eat pottos, taking them from their sleeping places during the day; however, this behaviour has not been observed in chimps elsewhere. Pottos living near villages face some predation from humans, who hunt them as bushmeat. They are sometimes preyed upon by African palm civets, although African palm civets are largely frugivorous.

If threatened, the Potto will hide its face and neck-butt its opponent, making use of its unusual vertebrae. It can also deliver a powerful bite. Its saliva contains compounds that cause the wound to become inflamed.

The highest recorded life span for a Potto in captivity is 26 years.

Cognition and Social Behaviour

In a study of prosimian cognition conducted in 1964, Pottos were seen to explore and manipulate unfamiliar objects, but only when those objects were baited with food. They were found to be more curious than lorises and lesser bushbabies, but less so than lemurs. Ursula Cowgill, a biologist at Yale University who looked after six captive Pottos for several decades, noticed 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 this behaviour occurs in the wild.

Similar Animals in the Americas

The Central- and South-American Kinkajou and Olingos are similar in appearance and behavior to African pottos, and formerly classified as a Potto (hence Potos). In recent times Olingos and Kinkajous have been determined to be members of the raccoon family.

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