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New Species of Slow Loris Recognized in Borneo

Dec 13, 2012 06:13 AM EST
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Scientists have discovered an entirely new species of slow loris primates in the jungles of Borneo.

Slow loris (Nycticebus) are related to lemurs and are found commonly across South East Asian countries like Bangladesh, China's Yunnan province, Philippines and the island of Borneo. They are found in a wide range of habitats including tropical forests, swamp forests, savannahs, wet and dry evergreen forests and shrub forests. They have a toxic bite and are rarely seen within their home range.

Slow lorises are recognized using their unique fur coloration on the body and face. The patterns of fur help differentiate between different species. The faces of these animals appear to have masks, with eyes covered in patches and heads having different shapes of caps on top, according to phys.org.

Using distinct facemasks, a team of international researchers have recognized three species of Bornean and Philippine lorises. Nycticebus Kayan is a new species of loris that has never been recognized before. This species was found in the central-east highland region of Borneo. It is named after a major river called Kayan that flows in the region.

The other two species were previously recognized as possible sub-species, but now they have been elevated to a new status and declared as unique species.

This suggests that there is more diversity in the jungles of Borneo and Philippines, which is yet to be explored. But the territory is facing a major threat due to human activities, which indicates the need for better conservation efforts to protect the species, the researchers said.

"In the first study to quantify facial mask differences we have recognized three new species of slow loris, two of which were recognized as subspecies at some point in the past, but are now elevated to species status, and one previously unrecognized group," concludes Rachel Munds, lead author of the study from the University of Missouri Columbia.

"This finding will assist in conservation efforts for these enigmatic primates, although survey work in Borneo suggests the new species are either very difficult to locate or that their numbers may be quite small," she said.

The findings of the study, "Taxonomy of the Bornean Slow Loris, with New Species Nycticbus Kayan (Priamtes Lorisdae)", are published in the journal American Journal of Primatology.

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