Philippine Tarsier

Philippine Tarsier

Taxonomic classification: Mammal, Primate, prosimii/ haplorrhini, tarsiiformes, tarsiodea
Common name: Philippine Tarsier
Physical description:  The Philippine Tarsier is coated with a grey fur and almost furless tail. They have flat faces, round skulls, and they prefer an erect posture. They can weigh anywhere between 113 and 142 grams and their height can range anywhere from 118 and 149 millimeters.  Their tails are extremely long (232mm) with just a tuft of hair on the end. The main use of the tail is balance. They have sharp teeth for catching prey and their dental formula is x 2 = 34. Their eyes, (obviously HUGE!) are twice as large as that of humans, but cannot rotate in the socket. To make up for the stationary eyes, their heads can swivel 180 degrees.  The males are typically larger than the females.
Geographic location and range: They are found in Bahol, Samar, Leyte, Mindanao, as well as islands of marippi, siargoa, Basilan, and dinagat. They are also found in the Primary and Secondary forests in and around the Philippines. The Philippine Tarsier prefers to perch in trees and usually seek habitats that are about 2 meters above ground. They can be found in elevations up to 700 meters above sea level.
Diet: The tarsier is carnivorous, eating mostly live insects. Their diet is 90% anthropods, and 10% vertebrates. Their bat-like ears allow them to hear the slightest sounds of moving insects and other prey, while there pivoting heads allow them to turn and snatch up their meal without it having the smallest inclination that its about to become lunch. Their quick head turn and snapping teeth make them so precise that they can even go after small poisonous snakes with no chance for the snake to react. Their locomotion is silent and they use a sort of ambush attack.
Social organization: Although there is not much evidence on social organization between tarsiers, we did find that they bond by social grooming. Usually, this occurs only between females and adult males, and females and their offspring.

Reproduction: The mating season for the Philippine Tarsier starts in April and goes till the end of May. The females are fertile for 25-28 days and once pregnant they carry the fetus for 6 months. There is only one birth per pregnancy. Tarsiers have a bad reputation for reproduction in captivity. Females also have multiple breast pairs but only the pectoral pair produce milk. When the fetus is born, they have fur and their eyes are open. Offspring also become mobile very quickly: two days after birth, they can climb trees and only four days after birth, they can jump from tree to tree. Offspring reach sexual maturity in two years, they live anywhere between 12-20 years.
Parental care: Once born the mother cares for the young and carries it in her mouth or on her back. Offspring are actually quite independent as mentioned above.
Language/communication: Philippine Tarsiers communicate similar to most primates but are less vocal. Calls are generally used to defend and express territory limits and are used during mating season in order for males to communicate with females. Their loudest call is one high pitched noise. When a tarsier is at ease, they make a cooing bird-like noise. In groups they emit a chirping sound similar to that of locusts.
Distress calls are more used than any, especially when an infant is separated from their mother. This is the same call used during mating season and is like a high pitched squeak. When one finds a mate, the female marks the male’s gland, which is located close to the mouth with a scent produced from the circumoral glad. Males use urine to mark their territory. Females participate in social grooming on adult males as well as their offspring.
Evidence of culture: The Philippine Tarsier is monogamous and form male and female pairs. They form small groups usually of no more than four and are not afraid to interact with each other, other animals, and humans, though they are generally shy. Swift movements will startle them causing them to let out a distress screech. Females give birth after six months to a single offspring whom they groom and nurture. They teach their offspring to find food and how to avoid predators. Tarsiers are nocturnal and will cross each others paths during nightfall searching for prey. They are generally a solitary species which means that they like to be alone.


Books: Primates of the world

Primate societies

Polymorphic microsatellite markers for Philippine Tarsiers by stefan Merker, Christine Driller, Irene Neri-Arboleda, and Hans Zischler.


Click to watch a video about Tarsiers

Special interest:

  • Tarsiers are thought to be about 45 million years old
  • They are also named for the Tarsus bone found in their ankle
  • according to Stefan Merker,  these animals don’t appear to face as dire of a future as other primates. However, with the rapid deterioration of the rain forest, they could very well become endangered as a result.
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2 Responses to Philippine Tarsier

  1. Megan M. says:

    Can you all add more detail for your references? For the books I’d like the year and authors. For the article, the year, the journal and the page numbers of the article. Thanks.

  2. Megan M. says:

    Also – check the spelling on the food – I think you mean aRthropod.

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