Potto

PottoPotto — 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. The Potto 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.

Pottos inhabit the canopy of rain forests in tropical Africa, from Guinea to Kenya and Uganda into the north of the Democratic Republic of Congo. They are nocturnal and arboreal, sleeping during the day in the leaves and almost never descending from the trees.

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 vestigial, 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.

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 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.

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