Otolemur crassicaudatusgreater galago

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Geographic Range

Thick-tailed galagos, or bushbabies, are found in East Africa from southern Sudan to eastern South Africa and through southern Angola.

Habitat

These animals are forest dwellers (Nowak, 1983).

Physical Description

Otolemur crassicaudatus, also known as the thick-tailed galago, is the largest galago species. Head and body length ranges from 297 to 373 mm, and tail length from 415 to 473 mm. Body size is sexually dimorphic, with males being significantly larger than females. The coloration of the fur is silvery brown to gray with the underside usually lighter in color. The fur is dense, woolly, quite long, wavy, and usually described as without luster.

The ears of O. crassicaudatus are large and can be moved independently of each other backwards and towards the base of the ear. These primates often furl and unfurl their ears, giving them a quizzical expression.

The eyes are forward pointing and large. As with most galago species, there are flat disks of thickened skin at the ends of the fingers and toes useful in grasping limbs. The fingers are long, and the toes are flattened with flattened nails. The dental formula is I 2/2, C 1/1, P 3/3, M 3/3. (Kappeler, 1991; Nowak and Paradiso, 1983)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    1 to 2 kg
    2.20 to 4.41 lb
  • Range length
    297 to 373 mm
    11.69 to 14.69 in
  • Average basal metabolic rate
    2.595 W
    AnAge

Reproduction

In most types of galagos, mating can be either monogamous or polygynous. The deciding factor appears to be the population density. Males tend to maintain larger home ranges than do females. They mate with females whose ranges are encompassed by their own. (Nowak and Paradiso, 1983)

The birth season of thick-tailed galagos varies according to locality. For example, breeding is restricted to November in the Transvaal, but occurs in August and September in Zambia. Pregancies peak in August in Zanzibar and Pemba. Female estrous cycles last approximately 44 days. Gestation is 133 days.

Litter size is generally 2 young, but can be 3. Females reach sexual maturity at 2 years of age. Because male competitive behavior is usually related to size in galagos, it is likely that males reach reproductive age somewhat later than do females. (Nowak and Paradiso, 1983)

  • Breeding interval
    The animals likely breed once annually.
  • Breeding season
    The birth season of the thick-tailed galago varies according to locality.
  • Range number of offspring
    2 to 3
  • Average number of offspring
    1.5
    AnAge
  • Average gestation period
    133 days
  • Average gestation period
    130 days
    AnAge
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    2 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    Sex: female
    495 days
    AnAge
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    Sex: male
    639 days
    AnAge

After birth, females leave their young in the tree while they leave to forage. They produce a rich, energy-dense milk, especially in comparison with anthropoid primates. This may be related to their lifestyle, as anthropoid primates carry their young during lactation and this galago does not (Tilden, 1997; Nowak, 1983). The role of the male in parental care has not been described, but through defense of his home range, he may unintentionally help to protect and defend the young within the territory.

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

Lifespan/Longevity

Species in the genus Otolemur have been reported to live in excess of 18 years in captivity. It is likely that wild individuals have a lower life expectency. (Nowak and Paradiso, 1983; Nowak and Paradiso, 1983)

  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    18+ (high) years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    22.7 years
    AnAge

Behavior

Thick-tailed galagos are nocturnal and arboreal. In ideal situations, their population densities can reach 72 to 125 individuals per square kilometer. They are alert and agile, making leaps of up to 2 meters. Locomotion in O. crassicaudatus is generally quadrepedal unless disturbed. They are active for an average of nine and a half hours a day during summer and twelve hours per day during the winter. They sleep in nests that are 5 to 12 meters off the ground. Adult O. crassicaudatus sleep together during the day, but split up at night to forage. They move up to 1 kilometer through the night.

Otolemur crassicaudatus lives in small groups of 2 to 6 individuals. The composition of groups varies. It could be an adult pair with young, two adult females with young, or one adult female with young. Adult males are territorial, and they seek home ranges that overlap several female home ranges.

Communication and Perception

This galago communicates using several vocalizations. The young make a soft clicking sound to their mother. Adults make a louder clicking noise to call to other adults. There are also loud cries, barks, and a high-pitched alarm call.

Thick-tailed galagos also communicate through olfactory signals. They urine mark and urine wash. Urine washing is a behavior that spreads the urine all over the hands and feet to leave the scent over the entire space through which the animal moves (Nowak and Paradiso, 1983).

In addition, all galagos are known to have visual communication (body postures and facial expressions) and tactile communication (primarily grooming). (Nowak and Paradiso, 1983)

Food Habits

Thick-tailed bushbabies are mostly gumivorous and frugivorous; they are known to eat insects as well. In a study in South Africa, approximately 62% of the diet was gums and saps, supplemented by fruits and insects. The diet of O.crassicaudatus varies with locality. In the Transvaal, South Africa, insects were estimated to comprise 5% of the diet, whereas in Kenya, insects may account for 50 to 70% of the diet. One insect species which may serve as a seasonal food supply is Macrotermes falcigar, also known as large termites. When these termites are in the alate (winged) form, thick-tailed bushbabies have been observed eating them off the ground without using their hands. (Happold and Happold, 1992; Nowak and Paradiso, 1983)

  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • Plant Foods
  • fruit
  • sap or other plant fluids

Predation

Accounts of predation on this species are lacking the literature covered here. However, as small, nocturnal mammals, it is likely that snakes, owls, and small carnivorous mammals may prey upon them.

Ecosystem Roles

These animals are clearly important in local food webs. They prey upon insects, controlling the growth of insect populations. In additon, as a prey species, O. crassicaudatus may have a positive impact on the populations of its predators.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

These animals, like other galagos, may occasionally be hunted as food. However, for the most part, they have no economic importance to humans. (Nowak and Paradiso, 1983)

  • Positive Impacts
  • food

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no significant adverse effects of O. crassicaudatus on humans.

Conservation Status

Although this species is rated "Lower Risk" on the IUCN Redlist, it is losing habitat due to humans clearing the land for farming and grazing animals.

As with all primates, galagos are listed in in Appendix II of CITES, limiting international trade in the animals or their parts.

Contributors

Nancy Shefferly (editor), Animal Diversity Web.

Barbara Lundrigan (author), Michigan State University, Julie Harris (author), Michigan State University.

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

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.

fertilization

union of egg and spermatozoan

food

A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.

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).

monogamous

Having one mate at a time.

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

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.

tactile

uses touch to communicate

terrestrial

Living on the ground.

territorial

defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement

tropical

the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.

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

Happold, D., M. Happold. 1992. Termites as Food for the Thick-Tailed Bushbaby (Otolemur crassicaudatus) in Malawi. Folia Primatol, 58: 118-120.

Kappeler, P. 1991. Patterns of Sexual Dimorphism in Body Weight among Prosimian Primates. Folia Primatol, 57: 132-146.

Nowak, R., J. Paradiso. 1983. Galagos, Bush Babies. Pp. 364-367 in Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore and London: The John Hopkins University Press.

Tilden, C., O. Oftedal. 1997. Milk Composition Reflects Pattern of Maternal Care in Prosimian Primates. American Journal of Primatology, 41: 195-211.