Galago senegalensisSenegal galago

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Geographic Range

Bush babies occupy the forested and bush regions of Africa south of the Sahara. Their range also extends to some nearby islands, including Zanzibar.

Habitat

Lesser bush babies are well-adapted to living in drier areas. They generally occupy the the savannah woodlands south of the Sahara and are excluded only from the southern tip of Africa.

Physical Description

Average length of Galago senegalensis is 130 mm. Tail length varies between 15 and 41 mm. Members of the genus weigh between 95 and 300 g.

Galago sensgalensis has thick, woolly, rather long and wavy fur which is silvery gray to brown dorsally and slightly lighter underneath. Ears are large, with four transverse ridges that can be independently or simultaneously bent back and wrinkled downward from the tips toward the base. The ends of the fingers and toes have flat disks of thickened skin, which aid in grasping tree limbs and slippery surfaces. Their tongues have a cartilaginous protuberance underneath the fleshy tongue (like a second tongue) which is used in conjunction with the front teeth in grooming.

The tarsus of galagos is greatly elongated to 1/3 the length of the shinbone, which allows these animals to adopt the hopping gate of a kangaroo. Galagos also have a greatly increased muscle mass in the hind legs, which also enables them to perform large leaps.

  • Range mass
    95 to 300 g
    3.35 to 10.57 oz
  • Average length
    130 mm
    5.12 in
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    0.764 W
    AnAge

Reproduction

Galagos are typically polygynous breeders. Male compete for access to the home ranges of several females. Male competetive ability is usually related to size.

Lesser bush babies breeds twice a year, once at the onset of rains in November and a second time during the end of rains in February. Females build a nest of leaves in which they bear and raise their young. Bush babies generally have one or two young per litter (rarely 3) which are born from April to November after a gestation period of 110 to 120 days. Young bush babies generally nurse for about three and a half months, although they can eat solid food at the end of the first month.

  • Breeding interval
    Lesser bush babies breed twice per year.
  • Breeding season
    Lesser bush babies breed once at the onset of rains in November and a second time during the end of rains in February
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 3
  • Average number of offspring
    1.5
    AnAge
  • Range gestation period
    110 to 120 days
  • Average weaning age
    3.5 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    240 days
    AnAge
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    300 days
    AnAge

The mother nurses her young for about three and half months. The young generally cling to the mother's fur in transport, or she may carry them about in her mouth by the napes of their necks. The mother also leaves young unattended in the nest while she forages. The role of males in parental care has not been documented.

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • protecting
      • female

Lifespan/Longevity

Their life span is approximately 10 years in captivity, but is probably no longer than 3 to 4 years in the wild.

  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    10 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: wild
    3 to 4 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    10 (high) years

Behavior

Bush babies are gregarious, arboreal, and nocturnal, sleeping by day in dense vegetation, tree forks, hollow trees, or old birds' nests. They generally sleep in groups of several individuals; they carry out their nocturnal activities, however, solitarily. If disturbed during the day, they may move very slowly, but at night they are active and agile, jumping as far as 3 to 5 meters in a single leap. On a level surface, bush babies hop like miniature kangaroos, but they generally locomote by leaping and climbing through the trees. They use urine to moisten their hands and feet, which is believed to help them hold onto branches and may also function in scent marking. Their call is described as a high-pitched, chirping note uttered most frequently in the morning and evening.

Home Range

In the genus Galago, males typically have larger home ranges than females. A dominant male's home range may overlap those of several females.

Communication and Perception

Communication in all galagos involves a variety of modalities.

Visual communication, such as body posture, is used between conspecifics. These animals are also known to have a variety of facial expressions to communicate emotional states, such as aggression, affiliation, and fear.

Urinating on hands before walking, while improving grip, also allows the animals to mark their territories with scents.

Tactile communication, in play, aggression, and grooming, is an important part of the lives of bush babies. Tactile communication is especially important between a mother and her offspring, as well as between mates.

Finally, bush babies are known to use vocal communication with one another. Alarm calls, fear calls, aggressive calls, and contact calls are common. In fact, the common name for these animals derives from the similarity between some of their calls and the crying of human babies.

Food Habits

Bush babies are nocturnal and arboreal feeders. Their favorite food is grasshoppers, but they will also consume small birds, eggs, fruits, seeds and flowers. They mainly feed on insects during the wet seasons, but during drought they feed solely on the gum that flows out of some of the trees in the acacia-dominated woodlands.

  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • eggs
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit
  • flowers
  • sap or other plant fluids

Predation

Predation on galagos certainly occurs, although details are lacking. Likely predators include small cats, snakes, and owls. Bush babies are known to escape from predators by leaping through the trees. They use alarm calls to alert conspecifics of danger, and some species in the genus Galago have been known to mob smaller predators.

Ecosystem Roles

As insect predators, these animals probably help to control populations of their prey. They may also aid in dispersal of seeds through their frugivory. As a potential prey species, they may affect predator populations.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Because of its small size, large appealing eyes and general fluffiness, lesser bushbabies are often kept as pets in Africa.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

These creatures are not known to have any negative impacts on human economies.

Conservation Status

Lesser bush babies are one of the more successful African prosimians. They have been studied quite extensively in South Africa.

Galago senegalensis is listed on CITES Appendix II for most of its range, and Appendix III in Ghana.

Contributors

Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Liz Ballenger (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.

Glossary

Ethiopian

living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.

World Map

acoustic

uses sound to communicate

altricial

young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.

arboreal

Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

chemical

uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

dominance hierarchies

ranking system or pecking order among members of a long-term social group, where dominance status affects access to resources or mates

endothermic

animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

forest

forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.

iteroparous

offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).

motile

having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.

nocturnal

active during the night

omnivore

an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.

polygynous

having more than one female as a mate at one time

rainforest

rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

saltatorial

specialized for leaping or bounding locomotion; jumps or hops.

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

scrub forest

scrub forests develop in areas that experience dry seasons.

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season

sedentary

remains in the same area

sexual

reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female

social

associates with others of its species; forms social groups.

solitary

lives alone

tactile

uses touch to communicate

visual

uses sight to communicate

viviparous

reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

References

Bourne, G.H. 1974. Primate odyssey. G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York.

Freeman, D. 1977. The love of monkeys and apes. Octopus Books, London.

Walker, E.P. 1964. Mammals of the world. John Hopkins Press, Baltimore, MD.