Potto, Perodicticus potto
The potto (Perodicticus potto) is also known as Bosman’s potto. It can be called a “softly softly” in some English speaking areas of Africa. Although it is the only member of the Perodicticus genus, it has four recognized subspecies. It is thought that there may be more than one species of Potto, but they are not recognized as such currently. The range of the Potto includes the tropical rainforest areas of Africa, including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Uganda, and Guinea.
The soft fur of the Potto primate is silvery-brown. They can grow to be 1.3 feet in length and can weigh up to 3.3 pounds. The index finger is hidden, although the thumb is prominent and opposable. The potto will use this thumb to latch onto branches. It has claws on the second toes of its hind feet, which are typical to species in its suborder strepsirrhines. Thee vertebras protrude from the potto’s neck, almost piercing through the skin, and these are used as a defense mechanism. Some observers have noted the scent of the potto, stating that it smells of curry.
The potto will move through trees with caution, always gripping a branch with at least two limbs. They are nearly silent, typically using a high-pitched “tsic” vocalization only between mother and young. The potto will eat mainly fruit, but will also eat insects and tree gums. Small bats and birds have will sometimes be caught by the potto.
The potto will live in strict territories. They mark their territory using urine and scent glands located under their tails, and both males and females display this behavior. They are extremely aggressive towards intruding members of the same sex, but male pottos will have territories that overlap those of two or more female pottos. Occasionally, young female pottos are given territory from the mother, whereas young males will leave to find their own.
The mating rituals of the potto involve grooming, and they will use their teeth and grooming claw to clean each other. Scenting also occurs during this time. Once a male and female choose to mate, they will hang upside down and do so face to face. After a pregnancy of 170 days, the female potto will typically have one baby, although multiple births have occurred. The young potto will attach itself to the mother’s stomach, later moving to her back. Weaning occurs at about four to five months, and pottos fully mature at eighteen months. Pottos have lived to be twenty-six years old.
The potto resides in high trees, providing safety from most mammalian predators. Birds of prey do not often catch the potto either, because they are diurnal, as pottos are nocturnal. Another reason that predators do not often catch pottos is because they rarely leave their homes in trees. However, in Mont Assirik, Senegal, one group of chimpanzees was found to take pottos from where they slept to eat them. Occasionally, pottos living in an area where humans are present face the danger of being hunted for food purposes. When attacked, the potto will use one of two defenses. It may use its neck spikes, hiding its face and ramming with them. They may also use their powerful bites to defend themselves, and coupled with saliva that can inflame a wound, it is a very good tactic.
In studies done in 1964, it was found that pottos would examine and manipulate foreign objects given to them. They would only do so, however, if the objects contained food. It was also found that they were less inquisitive than lemurs, but more inquisitive than lesser bushbabies or lorises. One biologist at Yale University, Ursula Cowgill, watched over six pottos for decades. She noted that they would form altruistic bonds, but only while in captivity. These pottos would save food for absent individuals and even look after each other if one were sick. The IUCN has given the potto a conservation status of least concern.
Image Caption: Potto – Perodicticus potto at Cincinnati Zoo. Credit: Ltshears/Wikipedia(CC BY 3.0)