Three new species of the slow loris primate have been discovered in Borneo according to a publication in the American Journal of Primatology.
The slow loris is a close relative of the lemur and is noted as the only venomous primate in the world. Originally recorded as a single species, the discovery indicates that there are now four species of loris, including a previously unknown one called N. kayan. The species has been named after the Kayan River that runs through its habitat in Borneo. The species has a dark, highly contracting facemask and fluffier body hair than the original species known as N. menagensis.
The other two species discovered were previously categorized as subspecies, but now N.m. bancanus and N.m borneanus are characterized by their physical features and habitats. N.m. bancanus lives in southwest Borneo and features a "distinct crimson red dorsal pelage" while the N. borneanus can be found in the central-south of Borneo and has a dark, contrasting facemask. They had originally been categorized as a single species due to similar cranial morphology but the new research indicates that because many small primates share similar cranial features, it should not be a determining factor in the differences of species.
Lead research author Rachel Munds, doctoral student at the University of Missouri, and her partners Anna Nekaris of Oxford Brookes University and Susan Ford of Southern Illinois University, looked at the animals' facemasks to differentiate between the species. The discovery had been difficult to make earlier because of the nocturnal nature of the animal.
The report creates another problem for the three species. The loris is easy to capture and has long been placed on the Indonesian markets. Dealers are known to tear out the animal's poisonous teeth and elbow patches in order to sell them as pets. "The pet trade is a serious threat for slow lorises in Indonesia, and recognition of these new species raises issues regarding where to release confiscated Bornean slow lorises, as recognition by non-experts can be difficult," said Nekaris in the press release.
Munds adds that "Four separate species are harder to protect than one, since each species needs to maintain its population numbers and have sufficient forest habitat."