Where do they live?
- Philippine tarsiers are uniquely endemic to the southeastern Philippines. Found on the islands of Bohol, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao, these tarsiers are able to survive throughout the islands that it inhabits, but does best in areas where humans do not disturb the habitat.
What do they look like?
- These little primates have very unique physical features. They are one of the smallest primates, measuring in at 85 to 160 mm (3.35 to 6.30 in) and having a mass between 80–160 g (2.8–5.6 oz), usually lighter for females.
- Since they are nocturnal primates, their eyes are specially adapted to allow them to hunt and forage at night. They have the largest eye to body size ratio of all mammals. Their eyes are fixed in their skull, so they have to move their entire head to see around them. To accommodate this need, they are able to pivot their heads 180 degrees.
- Philippine tarsiers have very sensitive ears with great mobility. Their ears are usually moving in order to catch the sounds of its pray.
- Their elongated tarsus bone, or anklebone, gives them their name. This elongated tarsus gives them the ability to jump from tree to tree. They are able to jump as far as 3 meters (about 10 feet)!
- Their hands are specially adapted to help them grip trees. Long fingers and specialized pads on the tip of every finger allow them to have great grip and hold on for long periods of time. Their thumb is not truly opposable. The thumb and second finger do not have nails like the rest of their fingers, but rather claws that are specialized for grooming.
- Philippine tarsiers are fluffy primates, covered in grayish to dark brown fur.
- Their tail is long with no hair except on the end.
- With their large eyes, large head and fluffy appearance, they are very adorable. This poses a problem because they are coveted for the illegal pet trade.
What is their social life like?
What do they eat?
- They are solo hunters and foragers. During the nighttime they separate from one another. During the day they come back together to sleep in hollowed out trees. They do not use vocalizations as much as other primates because of the risk of alerting predators to their location. When they do vocalize, it is a high pitched, loud piercing sound. Another call is a softer, like locust chirpings. They mostly rely on olfactory communication by sent marking their home ranges. They are extremely shy primates that hide and, as a result, are difficult to observe.
What do they eat?
- Philippine tarsiers are insectivores, meaning their main diet consists of insects, but they will feed on small lizards, spiders and frogs. Found in secondary and primary forests, tarsiers forage for food in the lower strata along edge habitats around the outer perimeter of the forests. They have been observed hunting in agricultural and plantation areas.
- Females have multiple sets of breasts, however one set, located at the pectoralis, is functional. The other breasts are used to help the newborn tarsiers anchor to their mother.
- They do not build nests for their babies. Mothers carry them around in their mouths or on their stomachs. When a mother is foraging, she places her baby in a safe place until she is done feeding. There is no paternal care.
- Populations continue to decline due to habitat destruction, hunting and the illegal pet trade. They do not do well in captivity, which inhibits captive breeding programs. This is also a very important reason why they should not be pets. Their life span decreases in captivity and, if they are nutrient deficient, they develop many healthy problems. According to the IUCN Red List, Philippine tarsiers are Near Threatened. There have been many efforts to help this species, including creating habitat conservation areas around where they reside. They are also protected under government law.
Video and some photos courtesy of ARKive.org
Written by Heidi Giancola, August 2016.