Pygmy Tarsier

The Pygmy Tarsier, also known as the Mountain Tarsier or the Lesser Spectral Tarsier, is a nocturnal primate found on central Sulawesi, Indonesia, in an area with lower vegetative species diversity than the lowland tropical forests. The Pygmy Tarsier was believed to have become extinct in the early 20th century. Then, in 2000, Indonesian scientists accidentally killed one while trapping rats. The first Pygmy Tarsiers seen alive since the 1920s were found by a research team from Texas A&M University on Mount Rore Katimbo in Lore Lindu National Park in August 2008. The two males and single female (a fourth escaped) were captured using nets, and were radio collared to track their movements. As the first live Pygmy Tarsiers seen in 80-plus years, these captures dispelled the belief among some primatologists that the species is extinct.

Physical description

The Pygmy Tarsier has a head-body length of 95 to 105 mm (about 4 inches), and weighs less than 57 grams (2 ounces). T. pumilus has very distinct morphological features, a body length which is smaller than other tarsier species, and a small body weight. It also has smaller ears than the rest of the genus, and its fur is tan or buff with predominant grey or brownish red coloring. The tail is heavily haired and ranges from 135 to 275 mm. The most noticeable feature of T. pumilus are its large eyes, about 16 mm in diameter. The Pygmy Tarsier also has nails on all five digits of each hand and on two digits of each foot. The claw-like nails aid in its grasping strength and are also used as an aid in its need for vertical support for feeding and movement.


T. pumilus is found in stable bonded pairs, remaining together for up to 15 months. This stable pair bond is usually monogamous. The species has two breeding seasons, one at the beginning of the rainy season and the other at the end, separated by about 6 months. Gestation lasts 178 days on average, and births occur in May and from November to December. Infants are quite precocial, and develop quickly, similar to other juveniles in the genus. The offspring begin capturing their own prey around 42 days of age, and travel in groups after only 23 days. Young females remain with parents until adulthood, while young males leave the natal group as juveniles.

The Pygmy Tarsier is nocturnal or crepuscular, and is mainly arboreal. It spends most of the daylight hours sleeping on vertical branches in the canopy. T. pumilus is not a nest builder. Unlike other tarsier species, it does not use scent glands to mark territorial boundaries. Also, tactile communication and interaction is important with the Pygmy Tarsier, as in other tarsier species.


Tarsiers, in general, are insectivorous, and tarsiers are the only primates that are completely carnivorous. They eat arthropods, and there are anecdotal stories of T. pumilus capturing birds and snakes. As insectivores, they also play an integral role in their habitat in structuring the insect community and in the local food webs.



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