Potto primate in Nigeria
© Trisha Shears

Potto is an arboreal, nocturnal, frugivorous and insectivorous primate belonging to the Loridae family and Genus Perodicticus. Lorises are primates and are more closely related to humans, apes, Old World monkeys and New World monkeys than any other living nonhuman primate group. Of the four subspecies of the Perodicticus potto, juju and edwardsi is found in the woodland and rainforest ecoregion of the Niger River in Nigeria. Coat color varies from reddish brown to blackish or brownish grey, slightly lighter on the ventral parts.

Potto is a fairly compact and robust primate, with a dense woolly coat and a tail that, while relatively short, is longer than that of other lorisids. Potto possesses a bone structure that project from the neck vertebrae between the shoulder blades, forming a spiny ‘shield’ on the neck, covered in a layer of highly sensitive skin and thick fur. This may help in protecting the potto against predators while it forages with its head down, or may play a role in social behavior, being highly sensitive to touch. It is argued that the potto’s deliberate locomotion and some of its anatomical peculiarities are related primarily to its diet and foraging behavior rather than the concealment from predators. Generally the potto moves slowly so as not to be detected by predators. When confronted by a predator, the potto will clamp down on a branch and present its neck, which has extra layers of skin and the elongated spines on the vertebrae. If attacked the potto will bite down on the snout of the predator.

When in pain, the Potto utter a “weet call” which is homologous to that of the Bush babies, mothers make a “tsic” call, similar to the infant call which comes with a metallic click. Males direct a courtship “tsic” call to females who are in estrus. The high-pitched “hee” call indicates aggression.

Like most of the other primates in Nigeria, pottos give birth to single offspring. Gestation is for between 193 to 205 days. Information on the lifespan of pottos in the wild is lacking but captive individuals have been recorded to live up to 26 years of age.

Tope Apoola
Profession: Writer