Thursday, June 26, 2008


I had to do a very difficult interview today that has left me all discombobulated and feeing so wiggy I had to go for a long walk in the field with the purple-headed grass and look at the oak trees and the birds. Now I'm procrastinating by looking things up about our little owl-eyed friend in the videos below.

Despite the name of the video, he is not a lemur; (as anyone could tell; lemurs are very long and gangly creatures with long tails and somewhat dog-like faces), he is a tarsier. A Philippine tarsier, to be exact.

The tarsiers are the smallest of all the primates/

And as you can see, that's really teeny.

His skull is almost all eye socket and really does give him a rather odd bird-like quality, as you can see:

Tarsiers are prosimian primates, [which makes them closely related to lemurs.] Although the group was once more widespread, all the species living today are found in the islands of South East Asia. Their feet have extremely elongated tarsus bones, from which the animals get their name.

This creature is really all about the eyes, which makes sense. It's brain is different from all the other primates in the way it processes visual information. The eyes also do not have a light-reflecting layer, which I think might be the reason he looks so very odd in the videos. They're very good jumpers and catch insects and sometimes birds by leaping at them from the trees. I've seen a video of tarsiers leaping about in a bush and they really look like something unearthly, as if this is where the fairy legends come from. (Except that we know there really are fairies, so it can't be tarsiers).

Wiki again:
Fossils of tarsiers and tarsiiform primates are found in Asia, Europe, and North America, and there are disputed fossils from Africa, but extant tarsiers are restricted to several Southeast Asian islands including the Philippines, Sulawesi, Borneo, and Sumatra. They also have the longest continuous fossil record of any primate genus[citation needed], and the fossil record indicates that their dentition has not changed much, except in size, in the past 45 million years.

For those who worry about the cute furry animals, the tarsiers are OK. They aren't abundant, and they don't really grow in many places in the world, but Wiki quotes some Official Endangered Animal List that says they are mostly in the "Lower Risk - Conservation Dependent" and "Lower Risk, Not Threatened" groups. So, that's one less thing.

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