|Brown greater galago (Otolemur crassicaudatus)|
Galagos //, also known as bushbabies, bush babies or nagapies (meaning "little night monkeys" in Afrikaans), are small, nocturnal primates native to continental Africa, and make up the family Galagidae (also sometimes called Galagonidae). They are sometimes included as a subfamily within the Lorisidae or Loridae.
According to some accounts, the name "bush baby" comes from either the animal's cries or its appearance. The South African name nagapie comes from the fact that they are almost exclusively seen at night.
Galagos are said to have evolved 40–50 million years ago from slow-moving prosimians that could not compete with larger, faster primates in Africa. The competition was much less at night, so they evolved into the bush babies they are today.
Galagos have large eyes that give them good night vision, strong hind limbs, acute hearing, and long tails that help them balance. Their ears are batlike and allow them to track insects in the dark. They catch insects on the ground or snatch them out of the air. They are fast, agile creatures. As they bound through the thick bushes, they fold their delicate ears back to protect them. They also fold them during rest. They have nails on most of their digits, except for the second toe of the hindfoot, which bears a 'toilet' claw for grooming. Their diet is a mixture of insects and other small animals, fruit, and tree gums. They have pectinate (comb-like) incisors called toothcombs, and the dental formula: 18.104.22.168
After a gestation period of 110–133 days, young galagos are born with half-closed eyes and are initially unable to move about independently. After a few days (6–8 days), the mother carries the infant in her mouth, and places it on branches while feeding. Females may have singles, twins, or triplets and may become very aggressive. Each new born weighs less than half an ounce. For the first three days, the infant is kept in constant contact with the mother. The young are fed by the mother for six weeks and can feed themselves at two months. The young grow rapidly, often causing the mother to walk awkwardly as she transports them.
Females maintain their territory,[how?] but share them with their offspring. Males leave their mothers' territories after puberty, but females remain, forming social groups consisting of closely related females and their young. Adult males maintain separate territories, which overlap with those of the female social groups; generally, one adult male mates with all the females in an area. Males who have not established such territories sometimes form small bachelor groups.
While keeping them as pets is not advised (like many other nonhuman primates, they are considered likely sources of zoonoses, diseases that can cross species barriers), it is certainly done. Equally, they are highly likely to attract attention from customs officials on importation into many countries. Reports from veterinary and zoological sources indicate captive lifetimes of 12 to 16.5 years, suggesting a natural lifetime of over a decade.
Galagos communicate both by calling to each other, and by marking their paths with urine. By following the scent of urine, they can land on exactly the same branch every time. At the end of the night, group members use a special rallying call and gather to sleep in a nest made of leaves, a group of branches, or a hole in a tree.
Galagos have remarkable jumping abilities. The highest reliably reported jump for a galago is 2.25 m. According to a study published by the Royal Society, given the body mass of each animal and the fact that the leg muscles amount to about 25% of this, galago's jumping muscles should perform six to nine times better than that of a frog. This is thought to be due to elastic energy storage in tendons of the lower leg, allowing far greater jumps than would otherwise be possible for an animal of their size. In mid flight, they tuck their arms and legs close to the body; they are then brought out at the last second to grab the branch. In a series of leaps, a galago can cover ten yards in mere seconds. The tail, which is longer than the length of the head and body combined, assists the powerful leg muscles in powering the jumps. They may also hop like a kangaroo or simply run/walk on four legs.
Generally, the social structure of the galago has components of both social life and solitary life. This can be seen in their play. They will swing off branches or climb high and throw things. Social play includes play fights, play grooming, and following-play. When following-play, two galagos will jump sporadically and chase each other through the trees. The older galagos in a group prefer to rest alone, while younger ones are in constant contact with one another.
Grooming is a very important part of galago daily life. Galagos often autogroom before, during, and after rest. Social grooming is performed more often by males in the group. Females will often reject the attempts made by the males to groom them.
There has been much recent study of the Galagidae. Several new species have been discovered, and they are now grouped into three genera, with the two former members of the now defunct genus Galagoides returned to their original genus Galago:
Family Galagidae - galagos, or bushbabies
- Genus Otolemur, greater galagos, or thick-tailed bushbabies
- Genus Euoticus, needle-clawed bushbabies
- Genus Galago, lesser galagos, or lesser bushbabies
- Galago senegalensis group
- Galago matschiei group
- Dusky bushbaby, Galago matschiei
- Galago alleni group
- Galago zanzibaricus group
- Galago orinus group
- Galago demidoff group (also referred to as "dwarf galagos")
- Genus †Laetolia
A low-coverage genomic sequence of the northern greater galago, Otolemur garnettii, is in progress. As it is a 'primitive' primate, the sequence will be particularly useful in bridging the sequences of higher primates (macaque, chimp, human) to close non-primates, such as rodents. The 2x planned coverage will not be sufficient to create a full genome assembly, but will provide comparative data across most of the human assembly.
- Groves, C. P. (2005). "FAMILY Galagidae". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 123–127. OCLC 62265494. ISBN 0-801-88221-4.
- "African Wildlife Foundation". Awf.org. 2012-06-20. Retrieved 2012-07-26.
- "BUSH BABY". Retrieved 2012-07-26.
- Charles-Dominique, Pierre (1984). Macdonald, D., ed. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. pp. 332–337. ISBN 0-87196-871-1.
- Aerts, Peter (29 October 1998). "Vertical jumping in Galago senegalensis: the quest for an obligate mechanical power amplifier". Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 353 (1375): 1607–1620.
- Witt, Cornelia (September 1982). "Preliminary observations on the social behaviour of the greater galago, "Galago agisymbanus" Coquerel, 1859, in captivity". Anthropologischer Anzeiger: 193–203.
- Fleagle, John G. (1999). Primate adaptation and evolution. Academic Press. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-12-260341-9. Retrieved 10 July 2011.
- Harrison, Terry, ed. (2011). Paleontology and Geology of Laetoli: Human evolution in Context. Volume 2: Fossil Hominins and the Associated Fauna. Springer. p. 75.
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