|by Marcia Malory|
A tarsier is a primate that belongs to the family Tarsiidae. Along with monkeys and apes, tarsiers belong to a group of primates known as Haplorrhini, or dry-nosed primates. Lemurs, lorises, aye-ayes, bushbabies and sifakas are wet-nosed primates, or Strepsirrhini.
Tarsiers can be found in the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. They are very small and usually weigh between 2 ½ and 5 ½ ounces (70 and 150 grams). Their bodies range from 3 to 6 inches (7 ½ to 15 centimeters) in length.
The most noticeable thing about a tarsier is its enormous brown eyes. Out of all mammals, the tarsier has the largest eyes in comparison to body weight. Tarsiers are nocturnal animals, and these large eyes help the tarsier to see in the dark.
A tarsier's cannot move its eyes, which are so big that there is no room for them to move in their sockets. However, it can turn its head more than 180 degrees, so it has a wide visual field.
Tarsiers have gray hair mixed with brown, red, buff or yellow. They have round heads, big, moveable ears that stick out and look like bat ears, short nose and slim bodies. The tarsier has a long, skinny tail, about twice the length of its body. The tail is hairless except for a tuft at the end.
Tarsiers have short front legs and long back legs.
The hind legs of a tarsier are longer in proportion to its body than the legs of any other mammal.
The length of the tarsier's legs comes from its long ankle bones - or tarsals. That is how the tarsier gets its name. The two bones of the lower leg, the tibia and the fibula are fused together.
This arrangement allows the tarsier to be an amazing jumper. It can jump 40 times the length of its body.
Tarsiers live in trees and often leap from tree trunk to tree trunk. They also sometimes leap to and from the ground.
They have finger and toe pads that help them cling to tree trunks.
Their tails are also useful for clinging.
In addition to jumping, tarsiers can climb using two or four limbs. They can also walk on four limbs.
Tarsiers have claws on their second and third toes. These are used for grooming.
A tarsier's diet consists mostly of insects but may also include snakes, lizards, frogs, birds and bats. The tarsier is the only primate that is entirely carnivorous.
Tarsiers live in small social groups. They communicate vocally, making high pitched calls, as well as by scent.
The tarsier has a gestation period of 6 months. Baby tarsiers can climb as soon as they are born.
There are 8 species of tarsier alive today: the pygmy tarsier (Tarsius pumilus), the Philippine tarsier (Tarsius syrichta), Horsfield's tarsier or the western tarsier (Tarsius bancanus), Dian's tarsier (Tarsius Diane), the spectral tarsier (Tarsius tarsier), the Sangihe tarsier (Tarsius sangirensis), the Peleng tarsier (Tarsius pelengensis) and the Lariang tarsier (Tarsius lariang).
Today, most tarsier species are threatened or endangered as the result of habitat destruction, hunting and the pet trade. Tarsiers sometimes become victims of pet cats. They do not adapt to captivity very well.