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Tarsiidae

Tarsiidae (tarsiers; suborder Haplorrhini, infra-order Tarsiiformes) A family of arboreal, nocturnal, insectivorous or carnivorous primates, about the size of rats, in which the upper lip is whole, there is no moist rhinarium, and the hind legs are very long and used in leaping from tree to tree. The tibia and fibula are fused and the calcaneum and astralagus elongated, but the feet retain their grasping digits. The hallux and pollex are opposable, all digits end in adhesive pads, and apart from the second and third hind digits, which have claws, all digits bear flattened nails. The tail is long. The snout is shortened, the face is sufficiently mobile for it to be used to express emotion, the eyes face forward and are extremely large, and the head is mounted on a neck so mobile that the animal can face directly backwards. The ears are large and mobile, and the sense of hearing is acute. The placenta resembles that of the higher primates, but the uterus that of lemurs. Tarsiers occur only in parts of Indonesia, eastern Malaysia, and the Philippines. There are at least four species, probably more, in a single genus, Tarsius.

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tarsier

tarsier (tär´sēər), small, nocturnal, forest-dwelling prosimian primate, genus Tarsius. There are at least three species found in the Philippines, in Sumatra and Borneo, and in Sulawesi. Tarsiers are about 6 in. (15 cm) long with a 10 in. (25 cm) hairless tail, and weigh about 4.5 oz (130 g). The body is covered with dense brown fur. Enormous round eyes are set close together in a flat face. Tarsiers' legs are specialized for climbing and jumping and end in long, thin digits bearing adhesive pads. They feed on insects and reptiles. They are believed to mate for life and to form family groups. Tarsiers are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Primates, family Tarsiidae.

See M. Kavanagh, Monkeys, Apes and Other Primates (1983); J. R. Napier and P. H. Napier, The Natural History of the Primates (1985).

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tarsier

tarsier Any of several species of nocturnal primates of Indonesia. They are small, squat animals with large eyes, long tails and monkey-like hands and feet. Family Tarsiidae; genus Tarsius.

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tarsiers

tarsiers (Tarsius) See TARSIIDAE.

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tarsier

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Tarsiers

Tarsiers

Locomotion

Resources

Tarsiers are prosimians, or primitive primates, in the family Tarsiidae, found on the islands of Southeast Asia. Tarsiers have 36 teeth, like their closest prosimian relatives, the lemurs and lorises, which have 36 teeth. Also, the upper lip of tarsiers is not fastened to the gum underneath, so that the face can be mobile, rather like the more advanced primates, monkeys and apes. Tarsiers are the only prosimians with a nose that does not stay moist. A moist nose usually indicates that a mammal depends heavily on its sense of smell. Tarsiers are often called living fossils because

they most resemble fossil primates from about 40 million years ago.

The head and body of the tarsier measure about 5 in (12.5 cm) in length, and its long, thin, naked tail is an additional 8 or 9 in (20-22 cm). Their average weight is only slightly over 4 oz (114 g). Tarsiers have soft, brown, olive, or buff fur on their head and back, which is a lighter buff or gray below. The tail may have a small puff of fur on the end. Both the second and third toes of the hind feet have toilet claws, which are long claws used for grooming and digging for insects. When grooming, tarsiers make a foot fist, from which these claws protrude.

Locomotion

moving somewhat like a small, furry frog, a tarsier can leap from small branch to small branch. In order to do this efficiently, the tibia and the fibula (the two lower leg bones) are fused about halfway down their length, giving the leg more strength. Tarsiers also have elongated ankle bones, which helps them leap, and which gives them their name, tarsier, a reference to the tarsal, or ankle, region. The legs are much longer than their arms.

KEY TERMS

Binocular Using two eyes set so that their fields of vision overlap, giving the ability to perceive depth.

Dental comb A group of lower incisor teeth on most prosimians that have moved together into a horizontal position to form a grooming tool.

Diurnal Refers to animals that are mainly active in the daylight hours.

Nocturnal Active in or related to nighttime.

These curious little nocturnal creatures dart around the undergrowth and low trees, keeping out the realm of the larger animals until they want to leap across the ground to gather up prey. Tarsiers are carnivorous, eating insects and small lizards. They have fat pads on the tips of their thin fingers and toes that help them cling to trees. These primates probably do not build nests.

Tarsiers have large bulging eyes, which close quickly for protection if large insect prey comes near. The eyes also face forward, providing binocular vision, an aid in catching insects at night. The animals large ears can also be folded for protection. Their eyes do not move in their head, but they can turn their heads in a full half circle, like an owl. This fact accounts for the belief, recorded in Borneo, that tarsiers have detachable heads. The brain of some tarsier species weighs less than a single eye. Their big ears constantly move, listening for sounds of danger.

Tarsiers form family groups consisting of the male, the female, and their young. Each family stays in its own territory, and fusses loudly if another tarsier enters it. After a 180-day gestation, the female produces a single, fairly mature infant. The offspring rides either under its mothers abdomen or in her mouth. When she is off hunting, she may leave it in a safe place. The young can hunt on its own by the age of one month old, when it is also ready to leap.

There are at least six species of tarsier in a single genus, Tarsius. All are threatened to some degree.

The Mindanao or Philippine tarsier (T. syrichta ) lives on several islands in the southwestern Philippines, where its forest habitat is being destroyed. The western, or Horsfields, tarsier, T. bancanus, lives on Sumatra, Borneo, and several nearby islands, and has been protected in Indonesia since 1931. The middle finger of its hand is amazingly long, almost as long as its upper arm.

The spectral, eastern, or Sulawesi tarsier (T. spectrum ) lives in three areas of Sulawesi (formerly Celebes) and nearby islands. Unlike the other species, the spectral tarsier has scales on a skinny tail, rather like a mouse. The pygmy tarsier, T. pumilus, inhabits the mountains of central Sulawesi. As its name suggests, this species is considerably smaller than any other tarsier.

Dians tarsier (T. dianae ) also is found in the central mountain areas of Sulawesi. This relatively new species of tarsier was first described in 1991. The Sangihe tarsier (T. sangirensis ) inhabits is islands of Sangihe and Siau, located between Sulawesi and Mindanao.

Over the years, many attempts have been made to domesticate tarsiers. However, without a continuous source of live food, these primates quickly die.

Resources

BOOKS

Gursky, Sharon L. The Spectral Tarsier. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2006.

Knight, Linsay. The Sierra Club Book of Small Mammals. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books for Children, 1993.

Napier, J.R., and P.H. Napier. The Natural History of the Primates. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1985.

Niemitz, Carsten, ed. Biology of Tarsiers. Stuttgart: Gustav Fischer, 1984.

Nowak, Ronald M. Walkers Mammals of the World. 6th ed. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.

Peterson, Dale. The Deluge and the Ark: A Journey into Primate Worlds. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1989.

Preston-Mafham, Rod, and Ken Preston-Mafham. Primates of the World. New York: Facts on File, 1992.

Wright, Patricia C., Elwyn L. Simons, and Sharon L. Gursky, eds. Tarsiers: Past, Present and Future. Piscataway, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2003.

Jean F. Blashfield

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Tarsiers

Tarsiers

Tarsiers are prosimians , or primitive primates , in the family Tarsiidae, found the islands of Southeast Asia . Tarsiers have only 34 teeth, unlike their closest prosimian relatives, the lemurs and lorises , which have 36 teeth. Also, the upper lip of tarsiers is not fastened to the gum underneath, so that the face can be mobile, rather like the more advanced primates, monkeys and apes . Tarsiers are the only prosimians with a nose that does not stay moist. A moist nose usually indicates that a mammal depends heavily on its sense of smell .

Tarsiers are often called "living fossils" because they most resemble fossil primates from about 40 million years ago. Thus, instead of being grouped with other prosimians, tarsiers are placed in a separate order, the Tarsioidea.

The head and body of the tarsier measure about 5 in (12.5 cm) in length, and its long, thin, naked tail is an additional 8 or 9 in (20-22 cm). Their average weight is only slightly over 4 oz (114 g). Tarsiers have soft, brown, olive, or buff fur on their head and back, which is a lighter buff or gray below. The tail may have a small puff of fur on the end. Both the second and third toes of the hind feet have toilet claws, which are long claws used for grooming and digging for insects . When grooming, tarsiers make a foot fist, from which these claws protrude.


Locomotion

Moving somewhat like a small, furry frog, a tarsier can leap from small branch to small branch. In order to do this efficiently, the tibia and the fibula (the two lower leg bones) are fused about halfway down their length, giving the leg more strength. Tarsiers also have elongated ankle bones, which helps them leap, and which gives them their name, tarsier, a reference to the tarsal, or ankle, region. The legs are much longer than their arms.

These curious little nocturnal creatures dart around the undergrowth and low trees, keeping out the realm of the larger animals until they want to leap across the ground to gather up prey . Tarsiers are carnivorous, eating insects and small lizards. They have fat pads on the tips of their thin fingers and toes that help them cling to trees. These primates probably do not build nests.

Tarsiers have large bulging eyes, which close quickly for protection if large insect prey comes near. The eyes also face forward, providing binocular vision , an aid in catching insects at night. The animal's large ears can also be folded for protection. Their eyes do not move in their head, but they can turn their heads in a full half circle, like an owl. This fact accounts for the belief, recorded in Borneo, that tarsiers have detachable heads. The brain of some tarsier species weighs less than a single eye . Their big ears constantly move, listening for sounds of danger.

Tarsiers form family groups consisting of the male, the female, and their young. Each family stays in its own territory, and fusses loudly if another tarsier enters it. After a 180-day gestation, the female produces a single, fairly mature infant. The offspring rides either under its mother's abdomen or in her mouth. When she is off hunting, she may leave it in a safe place. The young can hunt on its own by the age of one month old, when it is also ready to leap.

There are only three species of tarsier in a single genus, Tarsius. All are endangered to some degree, and their ranges do not overlap.

The Mindanao or Philippine tarsier (T. syrichta) lives on several Philippine islands, where its forest habitat is being destroyed. The Western, or Horsfield's tarsier, T. bancanus, lives on Sumatra, Borneo, Java, and the nearby islands, and has been protected in Indonesia since 1931. The middle finger of its hand is amazingly long, almost as long as its upper arm.

The spectral, eastern, or Sulawesi tarsier (T. spectrum), lives in three areas of Sulawesi (formerly Celebes) and nearby islands. Unlike the other species, the spectral tarsier has scales on a skinny tail, rather like a mouse. There is the possibility that another species, T. pumilus, still exists in the mountains of central Celebes.

Over the years, many attempts have been made to domesticate tarsiers. However, without a continuous source of live food, these primates quickly die.


Resources

books

Knight, Linsay. The Sierra Club Book of Small Mammals. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books for Children, 1993.

Napier, J.R., and P.H. Napier. The Natural History of the Primates. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1985.

Napier, Prue. Monkeys and Apes. New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1972.

Peterson, Dale. The Deluge and the Ark: A Journey into Primate Worlds. Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1989.

Preston-Mafham, Rod, and Ken Preston-Mafham. Primates of the World. New York: Facts on File, 1992.


Jean F. Blashfield

KEY TERMS

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Binocular

—Using two eyes set so that their fields of vision overlap, giving the ability to perceive depth.

Dental comb

—A group of lower incisor teeth on most prosimians that have moved together into a horizontal position to form a grooming tool.

Diurnal

—Refers to animals that are mainly active in the daylight hours.

Nocturnal

—Active in or related to nighttime.

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