Tarsiers are small jungle animals with a strange mix of features: They can swivel their heads like an owl, jump to 30 times their body length using frog-like legs, grip branches with their nimble feet and toes, and see in the dark with their huge eyes. These traits have helped these little animals survive; they have basically gone unchanged for 45 million years.
Bright Eyes: The tarsier is a nighttime hunter, and its huge eyes help it find prey in the darkness. Always wide open, the eyes let in even the dimmest moonlight to give a clear view of the animal’s surroundings.
Head Turner: A joint between the base of the tarsier’s skull and its spine give this creature the ability to turn its head almost 180 degrees in either direction, like an owl.
The Little Acrobat
When the sun sets over the rainforest, the tarsier’s ears perk up and its eyes open wide. Sharp hearing and vision help the animal locate prey with pinpoint accuracy in the dark. Long, powerful hind legs enable the tarsier to spring from tree to tree in pursuit of a meal, while fingers and toes with padded tips give it a tight grip on branches. Prey, such as insects and small birds, have little chance of escape from this primate.
The Hugger: During the day, tarsiers stay safe in trees, usually no more than 30 feet above the ground. They wrap their arms, legs, and tails tightly around slim trunks and branches so they don’t fall while sleeping.
Noisy Neighbors: Some tarsiers live in groups and stay in contact with each other through whistles and calls. Loud chatter among these animals can be heard more than 300 yards away.
- The tarsier comes out at sunset, ready for its first meal of the day. It clings to a tree and listens intently for the sounds of prey moving on the forest floor.
- Hearing a rustle below, the tarsier sees a cricket vulnerable in the open. Without a moment to lose, it uses its powerful hind legs to pounce on the prey.
- The tarsier enjoys its meal, but knows it will need more. The creature uses a lot of energy to jump among the trees, so it must eat 10 percent of its own bodyweight each night.