20+ Interesting Facts About Tarsiers

  1. Tarsiers are primates in the group Prosimian. Other members of this primate group are lemurs, lorises, and galagos.
  2. Tarsiers are one of the smallest and lightest among primates. Their average size is five inches, while they can attain a maximum weight of around five ounces.
  3. Tarsiers are currently limited to forests in Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines). However, researchers have found their fossils from other parts of Asia, Europe, etc.
  4. The oldest known fossil of tarsiers is 55 million years old. This fossil, discovered by researchers in 2013 from China, is also the oldest known fossil of any primate. (Source)
  5. Tarsiers can be divided into three groups according to differences in their physical structure. These include western tarsiers, eastern tarsiers, and Philippine tarsiers. There are around 13 species and subspecies of these mammals.
  6. Various tarsier species inhabit forests from sea level to areas at 1500 m height. The only exception is the pygmy tarsier that can inhabit mountains up to 2200 m high.
  7. Tarsiers are nocturnal animals but lack tapetum lucidum, a reflective layer behind retinas in other nocturnal mammals. They compensate for this with large eyes, where each eye is equal to the size of their brain. Their color vision is poor, but they can see well in dim light. These eyes are fixed in their sockets, and tarsiers look around by rotating their heads. 
    A tarsier on a tree
    Tarsiers' eyes are fixed and they see around by rotating head

  8. Tarsiers can rotate their heads 180 degrees in each direction and nearly 360 degrees overall. It is the farthest head rotation among mammals and the second farthest in the animal kingdom after 400 degrees full rotation in owls. (Source)
  9. The hind limbs of tarsiers are twice as long as their body. The most prominent feature of their hind limbs is their unusually long tarsals: anklebones. The animal gets its name from this bone.
  10. Long and strong hind limbs of tarsiers enable them to jump extraordinarily high and far. They can cover 5 m (16.4 feet) or more in a single leap, nearly 40 times their body length.
  11. Tarsiers are the only primates that communicate entirely in ultrasonic frequencies. Scientists initially observed this feature in Philippine tarsiers. They can hear and speak sounds of 70 to 90 kHz - more than double the upper limit of any other primate. This feature assists them in catching prey and avoiding predators. (Source)
  12. Male and female tarsiers in Sulawesi (Indonesiasing duets. However, the performance is different according to the couple, and these songs show their fitness. (Source)
  13. Tarsier communication is not limited to duets. Various species can produce up to 15 different calls for different purposes. These mammals also communicate with body language and scent marking.
  14. Long tails in tarsiers are around double the length of their body and head. It supports them while climbing trees. The amount of hairs on their tails differs according to species.
  15. Tarsiers have long and slender fingers. Their fingers and toes have adhesive pads that assist them in gripping branches.
  16. Tarsiers are generally monogamous. The female gives birth to a single offspring after a gestation period of around six months. The newborn is large (over 20% of adult weight) with fur and open eyes.
  17. Pygmy tarsiers remained invisible for more than 85 years. After 1921, researchers viewed this mountainous tarsier again in 2008.
  18. Tarsiers are the only entirely carnivorous primates. Their primary food includes insects, while they also eat small birds, bats, lizards, and snakes.
  19. Some people think tarsiers eat charcoal after seeing them eating in burnt forests. However, these primates dig charred logs to eat insects.
  20. Tarsiers have several predators on the ground, in trees, and the air. These include civets, feral cats, monitor lizards, snakes, owls, etc.
  21. There is a single male in each tarsier group. However, males in several groups sometimes join to fight against predators, particularly snakes.
  22. The lifespan of tarsiers is different in various species. According to estimates, some can live for 20 years or more in their natural habitat. The oldest tarsier in captivity lived for 16 years.


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