T is for Tarsier
Today it’s T for tarsier – a heart-meltingly cute little creature – this one is from the Philippines, an image by Yeowatzup on Flikr.
The Philippine tarsier is only 3-6 inches in length (not including its surprisingly long tail) which makes it hard to spot – it’s one of the smallest primates.
Tarsiers live on a few islands in Malaysia, Indonesia and the southern Philippines. There are many subspecies of three groups of tarsier, Western, Eastern and Philippine, but scientists keep reclassifying them so it’s hard to be sure of this!
Tarsiers have remarkably long hind legs, the result of the elongation of their tarsal (ankle) bone – they are the only mammal to have this adaptation and it enables them to jump 40 times their own body length.
Their eyes are enormous and relative to their size the largest of any mammal – each of their eyes is larger than their brain! They are nocturnal hunters and their huge eyes mean they can use all the available light.
They eat insects and hunting with those searchlight eyes is greatly helped by the fact they can rotate their heads nearly 360 degrees.
When they’ve spotted some prey, they carefully position themselves and leap, catching it in their hands and biting off its head.
Their ears are large and membranous, and can hear up to 91 kilohertz, compared to our hearing which can only hear up to 20 kilohertz. It was thought that they were silent – but in fact they’d been crying out all the time in the frequency of a bat, far higher than any other mammal known.
I can’t stop looking at them, so here’s another image by Roberto Verzo on Flikr:
They use those long fingers to stretch and catch their prey as they leap. They have flat ends and fingernails.
Of course, they are classified Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List, due to loss of habitat.
Both of the above tarsiers have been photographed in a sanctuary in Bohol.
Here is my tarsier poem:
is all surprise,
has ears like wings
eats lizards, insects,
all that flies,
is of the very
except its eyes, its eyes
Poem © Liz Brownlee
Photos © Yeowatzup and Roberto Verzo
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