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Slow loris species can be identified by markings around their eyes and head. Image by Helena Snyder. Wikimedia commons

With huge eyes peering through a bundle of fluff, slow lorises are the epitome of adorable. Just look at that face!

And that’s just what scientists have done – looking at the facial markings of slow lorises to identify one completely new species, and officially recognising two more as unique which had previously been considered possible sub-species.

The distinctive markings that separate the species include the mask-like patterns around the eyes and varying shapes of cap on the head. The newly described species, Nycticebus kayan, is named after a river running through their habitat in Borneo.

It’s their toxic bite that makes slow lorises unusual among primates.

More unusually, the toxin isn’t produced in the mouth but in glands on the arm. Licking or nuzzling the gland, they mix the toxins with their saliva to create an irritant.

Not only do they use it for defending themselves, but they also spread their spit onto their young, protecting them too.

Bit like a grandparent spitting on a napkin to rub the dirt off your face. Except afterwards you have AWESOME TOXIC POWERS! Still gross though.

The new Kayan species, notice the different markings around the eyes and cap to Bengalensis, above.

Unfortunately, lorises are endangered due to habitat destruction and the fact that they’re so damn cute, everyone wants them as pets. Illegal animal trade has taken a toll.

Still, it’s hard to imagine an animal like this going extinct. Insects and spiders, you know, they just haven’t got the same marketing department. Although, having said that, snow leopards are beautiful as well, and it sounds like they’re close to going extinct in the wild, so you never can tell.

Thinking about endangered animals makes me so sad! I saw a David Attenborough documentary a few days ago about his life and how the planet has changed and a couple of species had gone extinct since he saw them. Just made me feel a bit crap for being a human.

Still, even Attenborough did some silly things when he was young (like eating a clutch of sea turtle eggs), and his work has probably saved thousands of animals by now. People change.

So there’s always hope! Because a world without slow lorises in it… well, it’d be no kind of world at all.

More info at Wiley press releases.