Journal Article

Aposematic signaling and seasonal variation in dorsal pelage in a venomous mammal


In mammals, colouration patterns are often related to concealment, intraspecific communication, including aposematic signals, and physiological adaptations. Slow lorises (Nycticebus spp.) are arboreal primates native to Southeast Asia that display stark colour contrast, are highly territorial, regularly enter torpor, and are notably one of only seven mammal taxa that possess venom. All slow loris species display a contrasting stripe that runs cranial-caudally along the median sagittal plane of the dorsum. We examine whether these dorsal markings facilitate background matching, seasonal adaptations, and intraspecific signaling. We analyzed 195 images of the dorsal region of 60 Javan slow loris individuals (Nycticebus javanicus) from Java, Indonesia. We extracted greyscale RGB values from dorsal pelage using ImageJ software and calculated contrast ratios between dorsal stripe and adjacent pelage in eight regions. We assessed through generalized linear mixed models if the contrast ratio varied with sex, age, and seasonality. We also examined whether higher contrast was related to more aggressive behavior or increased terrestrial movement. We found that the dorsal stripe of N. javanicus changed seasonally, being longer and more contrasting in the wet season, during which time lorises significantly increased their ground use. Stripes were most contrasting in younger individuals of dispersal age that were also the most aggressive during capture. The dorsal stripe became less contrasting as a loris aged. A longer stripe when ground use is more frequent can be related to disruptive colouration. A darker anterior region by younger lorises with less fighting experience may allow them to appear larger and fiercer. We provide evidence that the dorsum of a cryptic species can have multimodal signals related to concealment, intraspecific communication, and physiological adaptations.

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Nekaris, K.A.I.
Campera, Marco
Watkins, Anna R.
Weldon, Ariana V.
Hedger, Katherine
Morcatty, Thais Q.

Oxford Brookes departments

Department of Social Sciences


Year of publication: 2021
Date of RADAR deposit: 2021-07-27

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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