Tarsiers are beloved primates that primarily inhabit Southeast Asia. You can easily recognize these special animals by their large eyes, but they are also notably small. Want to learn more about this charming species? Then read these top 10 facts about tarsiers.
They Once Lived All Over the World
Tarsiers were once found in almost every continent. Fossils of these animals have been discovered in Asia, Europe, and North America, indicating that tarsiers used to have a significantly larger habitat. Nowadays, they are only found on islands in Southeast Asia, such as the Philippines, Borneo, and Sumatra.
Their Eyes Are Huge
When you think of a tarsier, you probably immediately picture their impressively large eyes. It’s as if they are constantly astonished by life. Indeed, their eyes are exceptionally large – in fact, tarsiers have the largest eyes relative to body size of any mammal in the world. The average diameter of a tarsier’s eye is 16 millimeters, while the animal itself is only about 12 centimeters long. As a result, one of their eyes weighs about as much as their brain.
They Can Turn Their Heads Far
For wild animals, it’s crucial to be able to keep a good watch on their surroundings. Each species has its own tricks for this, and tarsiers have the advantage of being able to turn their heads incredibly far. They can make a 180-degree turn, which means they can look straight forward as well as straight back. The neck vertebrae of these animals are specially adapted for this remarkable ability.
They Can Jump Far
Observing a tarsier, you’ll notice that their hind legs are much longer than their forelegs. Not only are their hind legs extremely long, but they are also very strong. This combination enables them to jump very far. A five-meter leap is no problem for these little animals, a distance that is at least forty times their own length. Tarsiers often choose to move forward by jumping from one branch to another, although they can also walk.
Their Long Fingers Are Sticky
To hang onto a branch for a long time, you need good grip. That’s no problem for tarsiers, as they have relatively long fingers. With these, they firmly grasp each branch and prevent falling. They also have extra grip because their fingers are sticky. This means they need to exert much less force to stay in place.
Their Brains Function Differently Than Other Primates
Tarsiers belong to the primate family and are therefore a type of monkey. However, they differ from their relatives. Their brains have a unique connection to their eyes, a feature not found in other primates. Researchers believe this indicates that tarsiers are among the earliest primate species.
Tarsiers Are Small
Tarsiers are among the smallest primates on Earth. The Microcebus berthae (pygmy mouse lemur) is the smallest, measuring just 9 centimeters in length (excluding the tail). The second place is a tie between the pygmy marmoset and the tarsier, both with a body length of about 12 centimeters. This is excluding the tail, which is about 20 centimeters long in tarsiers.
They Are the Only Primates That Eat Exclusively Meat
While most monkeys enjoy an occasional insect or other living snack, tarsiers exclusively eat meat. They do not indulge in fruits or tasty green leaves, but prey on birds, snakes, insects, and lizards. Their strong claws make it easy for them to catch their prey.
Their Babies Are Relatively Large
When a tarsier has a baby, the newborn is at least 25 percent of the mother’s body weight. This means that the babies are exceptionally large. They are quickly independent, opening their eyes immediately and capable of climbing trees on their first day of life. However, many mothers choose to carry their young on their backs.
They Make a Lot of Noise
Tarsiers have an extensive language system with various sounds. They use it to warn others of danger, indicate hunger, call their offspring, make playful sounds, and of course, to flirt with each other. A pair of tarsiers can even perform a sort of duet.”