The largest bushbaby is the brown greater bushbaby. An adult male weighs 3.1 pounds (1.4 kilograms). Body length is 12.5 inches (31.5 centimeters) with a 16.5-inch (41-centimeter) tail. The smallest bushbaby is the mouse-size Demidoff’s bushbaby. An adult male weighs 2.5 ounces (65 grams). Its body is 5 inches (13 centimeters) long, with a 7-inch (18-centimeter) tail. Females are somewhat smaller than males.
Bushbabies are usually gray, reddish, or brown with lighter underparts, having gray or dark eye patches. Their fur is thick and soft, and larger bushbabies have quite long bushy tails that help them balance. All bushbabies have rounded heads, short pointed faces with forward-facing eyes, and a pointed snout, or nose area. They can rotate their head in a full circle. Their ears individually bend backward or wrinkle forward, enabling them to better locate sounds. Bushbabies have a special reflective, or mirror-like layer at the back of their retina, or light-receiving, part of the eye. This lets them see in extremely dim light. It also makes their eyes shine in the dark, like a cat’s eye.
Bushbabies have larger hindlegs, or back legs, than forelimbs, or front legs. Very strong hindlegs and very long anklebones enable most species to move extremely quickly and accurately. A bushbaby’s hands and feet have five long slim fingers, or digits, on each forelimb and five long, slim toes on each hindlimb. Their fingertips have round flat pads of thickened skin that help them grip firmly onto branches. All digits have nails, except the second digit of the hind foot, which has a long curved claw for grooming or cleaning. For grooming, bushbabies also use their lower incisors, or front teeth, and pointed canine teeth as a toothcomb. Underneath the tongue is a false-tongue, which is used to clean the toothcomb.
Bushbabies are found in many parts of Africa, from sea level to 6,000 feet (1,800 meters).
WHERE DO BUSHBABIES LIVE
Bushbabies live in many areas, from dry, thorny scrub to evergreen tropical rainforests.
WHAT DO BUSH BABIES EAT
Depending on the species, bushbabies usually eat fruit, gum or plant fluids, and insects. They can find insects by sound alone and snatch them from the air as they fly past.
BEHAVIOR AND REPRODUCTION
Bushbabies are nocturnal, searching for food at night. They usually remain in trees, but occasionally travel on the ground. Most leap from branch to branch. Some can leap long distances from one branch to another. Others hop on their strong hind legs between branch supports. Some can hang onto vertical supports, such as tree trunks. While most move quickly, the thicktailed bushbaby sometimes moves very slowly and quietly.
Bushbabies usually sleep in social groups of eight to twenty members. During the day, they rest in hollow trees, tree forks, or old bird nests. Some make sleeping nests from leaves. In a few species, a mated pair and their young may sleep together. In other groups, the adult male does not sleep in the groupsleeping nest. He keeps in contact with females when they are outside the sleeping nest.
Bushbabies forage, or search for food, by themselves. Males have larger territories, or feeding areas, than females. These often overlap those of several female groups. Scent, sounds, and facial expressions all play a role in bushbaby communication.
An adult male bushbaby may mate with several females.Twice a year, one to three infants are born. The young are fully furred with their eyes open at birth. Bushbaby young spend a week or longer in a hidden tree nest. The mother may leave them there while searching for food, or she may travel, carrying her young in her mouth. When she eats, these babies are placed to cling onto branches. Later, bushbaby young may ride on their mother’s back as she searches for food. A baby is weaned, or stops feeding on breastmilk, at about two months of age. It becomes independent at about four months of age. Females may remain in their birth area or travel to new areas.
BUSHBABIES AND PEOPLE
Bushbabies are often captured by local people as pets. The larger species may be used as food or killed for their fur. Bushbabies may also be taken for zoo exhibits. Bushbabies can be carriers for the yellow fever virus. Mosquitoes feeding on them can transmit the disease to humans.
Most species are common in Africa. However one species is Endangered, facing a very high risk of extinction, and six are Near Threatened, not threatened, but could become so, due to habitat, or living area, destruction.