Slow Loris: Fuzzy Can Be Fatal
In the quiet dusk of Sri Lanka in
1905, British archaeologist John
Still was startled by a threatening
hiss coming from his room. He
fetched a stick and hurried inside to
see the silhouette of what appeared
to be a swaying cobra with expanded
hood, hissing at a cat as if about to
strike. But upon closer look, he realized
the cobra was in fact a loris he had
Although lorises look like they’d
make cuddly pets, they are deceptively
dangerous. In fact, one species, the
slow loris, is among the few venomous
mammals and is the only venomous
primate. This paradox of a primate is
both a tribute to the Creator’s protective
provision and a testimony to the
ravaging effects of the fall.
Hide and Sneak
Slow lorises are small primates that
dwell in the jungles of Southeast Asia.
While other primates like monkeys
swing and leap through the trees,
slow lorises sneak across branches.
Even the quicker members of the loris
kind, the slender lorises and the pottos,
climb at a cautious pace. But if
you’re tempted to think slowness is a
handicap, not so fast. The slow loris’
sluggishness contributes to a feature
called crypsis—the use of stealth to
avoid predators and to hunt.
Though not trapeze artists, slow
lorises are talented climbers. Their
thumbs and big toes are situated at a
180º angle from their other digits so
they can clamp tightly to branches. If
you’ve ever been rock climbing, you
know it’s necessary to train your forearms
and hand muscles to maintain a
grip for long periods of time. But slow
lorises are built from birth to get a
good grasp on things. Their legs and
arms are equipped with a special net
of blood vessels called a rete mirabile.
This feature helps flush away lactic
acid (a waste product that hinders
muscle performance) and provides
adequate oxygen for muscles, ensuring
the veins don’t collapse while slow
lorises are hanging out.
Adorable But Deadly
Beware slow lorises, which come to
you in cute clothing but inwardly are
venomous snakes! Under that fluffy
fur lurks a secret weapon: venom. An
underarm gland releases an oily secretion,
but the toxin becomes potent
when mixed with saliva. After licking
the area around the gland, slow lorises
comb the toxin into their own fur or
their young’s fur with specialized
bottom teeth. This toxin is used to
ward off parasites and scent-oriented
Some of the toxin remains in their
mouth so they can deliver a deadly
bite. But slow lorises don’t seem to use
this venom to subdue their snacks.
Instead, they reserve it for potential
attackers. Most often though, slow
lorises attack each other in battles.
The ones who bite best get the mate.
The losers are left with festering,
slow-healing wounds, and many don’t
survive. Human death by slow loris
bite is extremely rare, but is reportedly
caused by anaphylactic shock.
We still don’t know much about how
this toxin works, but we do know that
when God made the loris kind on day
six of creation, they were not venomous
or vicious. The other members of
the loris kind have scent glands that
do not appear to be venomous, possibly
indicating that the slow loris’
glands changed after the fall to produce toxins for a survival advantage.
Another possibility is that God preprogrammed
slow lorises with DNA that,
when expressed, would enable them to
protect themselves after the fall.
The Serpent Within
What John Still experienced in Sri
Lanka may not have just been the
night playing tricks on his eyes. The
reptilian posture, warning hiss, and
markings on the slow loris’ face and
back really are reminiscent of a serpent.
It even has a few extra vertebrae
that allow it to bend, twist, and slither.
This mimicry is fairly common in
nature. Examples include bugs or frogs
that look like leaves and viceroy butterflies
that look like distasteful monarch
butterflies. From an evolutionary
perspective, mimicry would be the
result of chance mutations and natural
selection. But believers in a biblical
creation see mimicry as the result of
natural selection and other mechanisms
acting upon the variety our Creator
built into the DNA of the original
Like these other creatures with
shared designs, slow lorises with their
cobra-like qualities show evidence of
a single Creator who equipped his creation
with the necessary features to
survive in the fallen world.
As Christians, we look forward to
a time when “the nursing child shall
play over the hole of the cobra” (Isaiah
11:8). Perhaps in the new heavens and
earth, we can cuddle these furballs
without worrying about their bite.
Did You Know . . .
The name loris, a Dutch word meaning
“clown,” could have been inspired by the
facial features that help define the species.
Some locals attribute supernatural
powers to the slow loris. For instance,
some believe slow loris blood can
cause the soil to become infertile
or even cause landslides.
The slow loris can remain motionless for hours at a time.
The slow loris will eat prey such as poisonous insects and deadly spiders,
things other creatures avoid. The toxin it brews up may come partly from
its disgusting diet.
The slow loris has some of the
largest eyes of all primates.
Its eyes are front facing for
stereoscopic (3D) vision, and
the large size helps collect
more light. Behind the
retina, a reflective layer
allows the light to strike the
retina a second time so the
eyes gather much more light,
giving the slow loris the ability to
see in nearly complete darkness.
Wisconsin–Milwaukee. He has taught many subjects in high
school science and Bible, including biology, anatomy, and
Old Testament survey. He currently teaches at Heritage
Christian School in New Berlin, Wisconsin.
SourceThis article originally appeared on answersingenesis.org