Slow lorises are so cute, right? The little nocturnal primates sleep all day, party (eat) all night, and have teeny little noses and big round eyes that make them look perpetually surprised. Aw, just look at that little guy up there. Remember that viral video of the person tickling the slow loris’s sides, and the slow loris raising its arms above its head and looking very satisfied? That was a good video. Only, hold on. What’s this? Did you know slow lorises are actually venomous? And each of their bites is chock-full of a nasty, flesh-eating venom that can cause “necrosis, so animals may lose an eye, a scalp, or half their face”? Not only that: According to the New York Times, a new study has found that the most common victims of the slow loris’s poisonous bites are other slow lorises. Wow, you think you know someone …
“This very rare, weird behavior is happening in one of our closest primate relatives,” Anna Nekaris, the lead author of the study that was published Monday in the journal Current Biology, told the Times. “If the killer bunnies on Monty Python were a real animal, they would be slow lorises — but they would be attacking each other.”
While scientists knew of slow lorises’ face-melting venom before, it wasn’t immediately clear how the creatures used it. The venom alone was unusual. Slow lorises are one of only six mammal species known to be venomous. Stranger still, the slow lorsises’ venom isn’t in their saliva, but is produced when the animals raise their arms above their heads (like in that cute video) and “quickly lick venomous-oil secreting glands located on their upper arms.” The poison then pools in their grooved canines, per the Times, which are “sharp enough to slice into bone.”
After tracking 82 Javan slow lorises in Indonesia over an eight-year span, Nekaris found that whenever they would recapture the animals every few months for health checks, around 20 percent of them had bite wounds, many of which were severe, their flesh rotted by venom. Males suffered these kinds of bites more than females. Researchers concluded that slow lorises are extremely territorial and use their venom to settle disputes.
Slow lorises…. They had us all fooled. The next time you see a cute picture of one of those sweet little guys, just imagine them angrily licking their pits as they prepare to bite another loris’s face so his flesh rots off.
Okay, that still sounds kind of cute, actually.