Venomous Slow Loris May Have Evolved To Mimic Cobras
Don’t be fooled by those big brown eyes.
by Alissa Zhu
What’s slow, fuzzy, and deadly like a cobra? The slow loris, of course! Researchers are arguing that these endangered Asian primates evolved to mimic venomous snakes.
An article published in the Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins including Tropical Diseases suggested slow lorises adopted serpentine markings and movements as defense mechanisms.
Its big doe eyes, furry face, and tiny grasping hands are a deceptive mask for its deadly nature. Slow lorises are the only known venomous primate, secreting toxins from a gland located along the crook of their inner arms. When threatened, a slow loris will hiss and retreat into a defensive posture with its paws clasped on top of its head. In this position, the slow loris’s upraised arms combined with dark markings on its face look remarkably like the expanded hood of an angered Spectacled cobra.
To add to the effect, slow lorises can even undulate in a serpentine fashion. This unusual movement is made possible by an extra vertebra in their spines. The defense posture also allows slow lorises to suck the venom from their armpits and strike quickly. The bites of these tiny primates have caused anaphylactic shock and even death in humans…
(read more: Popular Science)
photos: David Haring/Duke Lemur Ctr. and Nekaris et al. Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins including Tropical Diseases