One of the rarest in Asia, Tarsiers are haplorhine primates of the family Tarsiidae. Tarsiers are divided into three species groups: Eastern, Western, and Philippine, containing 18 sub-species. Across species, all tarsiers share specific similarities. They are all night-loving and tend to be small, weighing between 65 and 145 g. They have smooth, velvety fur, which is generally buff, gray, ochre, or beige. All tarsiers have long tails that are either covered in hair or have a tuft at the end. Although their bodies are slim, tarsiers look around due to their crouching habit while sticking to branches. Their most unique features may be their round heads, exceptionally enormous eyes, and their portable, bat-like ears.
Let’s explore more about this rare wonder:
They are some of the oldest primates on the planet, recording back about 40 million years with fossil records showing them once at home all over the world, including Europe and the Americas.
Tarsiers favored habitat differs between the species, but all live in the wild. For instance, western tarsiers are usually found in lowland primary forests or tropical mountain forests, eastern tarsiers live in various forest levels, and the pygmy tarsier is restricted to very high hilly forests.
They are now confined to South East Asia, and they are rapidly vanishing from their surviving habitats. All species are exposed to extinction due to fragmentation and habitat loss, and will unquestionably go extinct without vital conservation efforts to protect their habitats. The Siau Island Tarsier, for instance, is listed as one of the two dozen most endangered primates globally. The specific needs for tarsiers in both prey and habitat make captive breeding programs practically impossible. Only less than 50 percent of tarsiers put in captivity can last, and the remaining ones die. Habitat conservation is the only way to save them from extinction.
Tarsiers have an astonishingly great hearing. They have enormous eyes. Each is about 15 mm wide and weighs as much as their brain. Unlike many night-loving animals, tarsiers lack tapetum lucidum (a light-reflecting area ) of the eye. They also have a fovea, which is also not expected in nocturnal animals. The tarsier’s brain is distinct from other primates in one regard. The series of cell layers in the parallel geniculate nucleus getting data from both eyes are separate from the set-up in lorises, lemurs, and monkeys. This noticeable difference separates tarsiers from all other primates and reinforces the view that they arose in an early, autonomous, primate evolution line.
Tarsiers are unique in that they are the only primates known that are rigorously carnivorous. Their primary food source is insects, which they catch by diving at them. They also prey on bats, birds, snakes, and lizards.
Fun Facts about Tarsier:
- Tarsiers are the motivation for the well-known movie character Yoda of Star Wars due to their small size and superior hunting skills.
- They are remarkably shy, and human-tarsiers interaction is limited in the wild.
- Tarsiers have another unusual feature: they can turn their head for 180 degrees without disturbing the rest of the body. This helps them stay “quiet” while waiting for the prey to arrive.
- Tarsiers sprinkle urine on the branches to mark their territory.
- Tarsier pregnancy lasts six months and ends with one baby. Babies have open eyes, are covered with fur, and they are able to move by hopping within 24 hours.
- The life span of tarsiers is between 12 and 20 years in the natural environment.