Pygmy tarsiers, Tarsius pumilus, are endemic to Central Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Biogeographic Regions: oriental (Native )
Other Geographic Terms: island endemic
Like other tarsiers, pygmy tarsiers are small-bodied haplorhine primates whose appearance is dominated by large round eyes, large bare ears, long hind limbs with elongated ankles, elongated digits, and a long slender tail.
Pygmy tarsiers are easily distinguished from other tarsiers by their small body size, which averages approximately 50 g, less than half the size of lowland tarsier species. Their head and body length, which ranges from 80 to 111 mm is approximately 75% that of other tarsiers. Pygmy tarsiers do not express sexual dimorphism.
Pygmy tarsiers are similiar in overall appearance to spectral tarsiers, of which they were once considered a subspecies. The pelage of pygmy tarsiers is silky and is longer and denser than that of spectral tarsiers. They are red-brown in color, although pygmy tarsiers occasionally lack the buff colored post-auricular spot common among spectral tarsiers. The underbelly of pygmy tarsiers is buff, grayish, or slate colored. Hair on the face is usually shorter than hair on the rest of the body.
Pygmy tarsiers have a rounded head with a short snout. Their ears are relatively smaller than those of other tarsiers, and the degree of orbital enlargement is smaller than other species. Their eyes are approximately 16 mm in diameter.
Members of this species have a long slender tail. Approximately one third of the ventral surface of the tail is scaly, which is attributed to its function in body posture. The tail is heavily haired and is dark brown or black in color. The tip of the tail bears a tuft of hair.
Pygmy tarsiers, like, spectral tarsiers, have short fore limbs and small hands, suggesting that these animals use their hands more for locomotion than for immobilizing prey, as do other tarsier species. Pygmy tarsiers have several distinctive morphological characteristics that may stem from their unique highland habitat. Their body proportions differ considerably from lowland tarsiers. Pygmy tarsiers have a longer tail relative to head-body length and longer thighs relative to overall hind limb length, Despite their smaller overall size, absolute thigh length is still comparable to that of other Sulawesian tarsiers. These qualities are advantageous for leaping great distances between trees in thin forest cover. The small size of pygmy tarsiers may be an adaptation to the cooler, less productive highland environment. Although most tarsiers have low basal metabolic rates, pygmy tarsiers may have increased metabolic rates due to their small size and cold habitat.
Although most tarsiers have reduced nails that do not extend past the digital pads, pygmy tarsiers have nails on all five digits of the hand, including the hallux, and on the two lateral digits of the foot. These nails extend beyond the edge of the digital pads, are laterally compressed, and are sharply pointed at the tips, resembling claws. The digital pads on both their hands and feet are reduced in size. Both their claw-like nails and reduced pads are thought to provide a better grasp on the mossy substrate to which they cling during feeding and locomotion.
Range mass: 48 to 52 g.
Range length: 80 to 111 mm.
Average length: 96 mm.
Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Catalog Number: USNM 219454
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Mammals
Sex/Stage: Female; Adult
Preparation: Skin; Skull
Collector(s): H. Raven
Year Collected: 1917
Locality: Rano Rano [= Ranorano], Celebes, Sulawesi Tengah, Indonesia, Asia
Pygmy tarsiers inhabit montane cloud forests at elevations between 1800 and 2200 m in the central Sulawesi mountains. At elevations between 1900 and 2000 m, moss-covered conifer forest predominates. Above this elevation, the canopy is only 10 to 20 m high, leaves are small, tree trunks are not buttressed, large woody vines are absent, and species diversity of trees and shrubs is lower than in lowland tropical rainforest. Pygmy tarsiers often reside in the lower canopy, among sapling trunks, and on the forest floor. Upper montane forests are characterized by the presence of dense mist. Humidity in these regions is 85 to 100%, creating a clammy, cold, and wet environment.
Range elevation: 1800 to 2200 m.
Average elevation: 2100 m.
Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial
Terrestrial Biomes: rainforest ; mountains
Habitat and Ecology
Tarsiers are the only primates that are totally carnivorous. Pygmy tarsiers are insectivorous and eat primarily arthropods with heavily keratinized exoskeletons. Larger arthropods are less abundant at higher altitudes. Pygmy tarsiers also commonly prey upon small vertebrates.
Tarsiers hunt by leaping from tree trunks and pouncing on terrestrial prey. They kill prey by biting down with the anterior teeth, and they chew with a side to side motion. Tarsiers typically take large prey for their body size and consume the entire prey, which can result in large fluctuations in body weight. Pygmy tarsiers drink water by lapping.
Animal Foods: birds; mammals; amphibians; reptiles; insects; aquatic crustaceans
Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore , Eats non-insect arthropods)
Pygmy tarsiers consume a large variety of arthropods and small vertebrates, and they are preyed upon by diurnal raptors. Tarsiers also act as hosts to a number of ecto- and endoparasites.
Despite the rarity of alarm calls, predation is a considerable threat to pygmy tarsiers. Most common predators are diurnal raptors, the main birds of prey in Sulawesi. The open canopy cover of the highland montane forests makes this species especially vulnerable to raptor attacks.
Life History and Behavior
Tarsiers commonly communicate through vocalizations and urine scent marking. However, each of these is observed much less frequently among pygmy tarsiers than other species. The infrequency of observed scent marking in this species, however, may be due to difficulty in monitoring canopy habitat and high rainfall quickly washing away urine.
The auditory bullae of pygmy tarsiers are more enlarged than those of other tarsiers, perhaps because the heavy fog and thick moss cover common in their habitat tend to reduce sound travel. However, vocal communication is markedly reduced in pygmy tarsiers. They rarely perform the male-female vocal duets or family choruses typical of lowland species. Because these vocalizations are associated with territory maintenance, this could indicate that pygmy tarsiers are less territorial than lowland species, or that they make use other means of communication to communication the same information.
The eye of tarsiers is unique among primates and is largely responsible for tarsier survival. Lacking a tapetum lucidum, the eyes of tarsiers are greatly enlarged to allow night vision. The average volume of their eyes is equal to the average tarsier cranial capacity. Because their eyes are immobile within the orbits, tarsiers adjust their vision by moving their head, which can rotate through nearly 180 degrees in either direction. The extent to which tarsiers use visual signals, such as postures and displays, is not known
In all primate species tactile communication is important between mothers and their offspring, as well as between mates.
Communication Channels: tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Other Communication Modes: duets ; choruses ; scent marks
Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical
Little information is available regarding longevity of pygmy tarsiers. The oldest wild-caught tarsier continued to live in captivity until 12 years, 5 months of age (a male Tarsius syrichta). Record lifespans of captive-bred tarsiers are 11 years, 10 months (a male Tarsius syrichta) and over 13 years (a female Tarsius bancanus).
Because they are infrequently observed and until recently were considered a subspecies of spectral tarsiers (Tarsius tarsier), little is known regarding the mating systems of pygmy tarsiers. Spectral tarsiers, their closest geographic neighbor and a member of the genus, are typically monogamous, although some social groups consistently exhibit polygyny.
Although little is known regarding the reproductive behavior of pygmy tarsiers, it likely resembles that of other tarsiers. Spectral tarsiers have two breeding seasons annually, spaced 6 months apart. One breeding season occurs at the beginning of the rainy season, and the other occurs at the end of the rainy season. Births in spectral tarsiers occur in May and from November to December.
Pygmy tarsiers likely have a long gestation period of around 6 months and produce only one offspring per year. Gestation of Philippine tarsiers lasts 178 days, after which time a fully furred, well-developed offspring is born. Young cling to the mother's ventrum or are carried in the mouth. Philippine tarsiers are precocial, and offspring are soon able to follow their kin. They can leap at about 1 month of age and can capture prey at approximately 42 days of age. Weaning is thought to occur shortly afterward. Prenatal development is incredibly slow in western tarsiers, and, as such, neonates are born with approximately 60 to 70% of the brain mass and 20% of the body mass of an adult. Newborn spectral tarsiers have similarly high infant-to-adult weight ratios of 20 to 33%. Female western tarsiers can first conceive around 2 years of age in captivity.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; viviparous
Little is known regarding parental investment of pygmy tarsiers. In closely related spectral tarsiers, parental care is primarily maternal. Some allocare is exhibited by subadult females, and much less so by adult and subadult males, but this is extremely limited compared to that displayed by some platyrrhine primates. Philippine tarsiers are born well-developed, and young cling to their mother's belly. Mothers nurse their young and may also carry young in their mouth. Young spectral tarsiers mature quickly; they can travel in groups 23 days after birth and are able to hunt alone after 42 days. Young females remain with their parents until adulthood, whereas young males leave their natal group as juveniles.
Parental Investment: precocial ; male parental care ; female parental care ; pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female)
Because they are only known from a few museum specimens and one wild group, the IUCN lists pygmy tarsiers as "Data Deficient." However, populations are small, fragmented and declining, and this species could easily become endangered. Deforestation is a threat, although their remote habitat, which has thus far seen only small-scale human expansion, may place this species at lesser risk.
The CITES treaty on the international trade in wildlife includes all tarsiers in Appendix II, limiting international trade.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: appendix ii
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: data deficient
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 2000Data Deficient
- 1996Data Deficient
- 1994Indeterminate(Groombridge 1994)
- 1990Indeterminate(IUCN 1990)
- 1988Indeterminate(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
There are no known adverse effects of pygmy tarsiers on humans.
There are no known direct positive effects of pygmy tarsiers on humans.
The pygmy tarsier (Tarsius pumilus), also known as the mountain tarsier or the lesser spectral tarsier, is a nocturnal primate found in 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 led by Dr. Sharon Gursky and Ph.D. student Nanda Grow 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 was extinct.
The pygmy tarsier has a head-body length of 95 to 105 mm (about 4 inches), and weighs less than 57 grams (2 ounces). It 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 the pygmy tarsier 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.
Behavior and ecology
The pygmy tarsier 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.
Some species of tarsier have recently been found to communicate at ultrasonic frequencies of around 70 kHz on the islands of Bohol and Leyte.  The ultrasonic range of their communication is well beyond what may be detected by the human ear and is a distinct advantage to keeping their communication species-specific.
Tarsiers, in general, are insectivorous, and tarsiers are the only primates that are completely carnivorous. As insectivores, they also play an integral role in their habitat in structuring the insect community and in the local food webs.
|Wikispecies has information related to: Pygmy tarsier|
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