Foraging behaviour of the slender loris (Loris lydekkerianus lydekkerianus): implications for theories of primate origins

J Hum Evol. 2005 Sep;49(3):289-300. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2005.04.004.


Members of the Order Primates are characterised by a wide overlap of visual fields or optic convergence. It has been proposed that exploitation of either insects or angiosperm products in the terminal branches of trees, and the corresponding complex, three-dimensional environment associated with these foraging strategies, account for visual convergence. Although slender lorises (Loris sp.) are the most visually convergent of all the primates, very little is known about their feeding ecology. This study, carried out over 10 (1/2) months in South India, examines the feeding behaviour of L. lydekkerianus lydekkerianus in relation to hypotheses regarding visual predation of insects. Of 1238 feeding observations, 96% were of animal prey. Lorises showed an equal and overwhelming preference for terminal and middle branch feeding, using the undergrowth and trunk rarely. The type of prey caught on terminal branches (Lepidoptera, Odonata, Homoptera) differed significantly from those caught on middle branches (Hymenoptera, Coleoptera). A two-handed catch accompanied by bipedal postures was used almost exclusively on terminal branches where mobile prey was caught, whereas the more common capture technique of one-handed grab was used more often on sturdy middle branches to obtain slow moving prey. Although prey was detected with senses other than vision, vision was the key sense used upon the final strike. This study strongly supports the notion that hunting for animal prey was a key ecological determinant in selecting for visual convergence early on in primate evolution. The extreme specialisations of slender lorises, however, suggest that early primates were not dedicated faunivores and lend further support to the emerging view that both insects and fruits were probably important components of the diet of basal primates, and that exploitation of fruits may account for other key primate traits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild
  • Biological Evolution
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Ecology
  • Environment
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • India
  • Insecta
  • Lorisidae / physiology*
  • Mollusca
  • Predatory Behavior*
  • Social Behavior*