Monday, October 14, 2013


The Pygmy Tarsier

The creature we’re going to discuss today looks like a Mogwai, or Gremlin, but it’s not. The Chinese use the word Mogwai to describe certain demons, which inflict harm on humans. If you saw the movie Gremlins, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. And although there is some local fear of the Pygmy Tarsier, it is definitely not like a Mogwai. If you haven’t seen a Mogwai, here’s a picture of one from the film. It’s quite possible that the Pygmy Tarsier was the model for the Mogwai. I don’t know that for certain, but there are some strikingly similar characteristics. 

He’s kinda cute, until you get him wet, the Mogwai, that is, not the Pygmy Tarsier. I think the Pygmy Tarsier would be a bit upset if he knew about the Mogwai, but we don’t need to worry about that.

The Pygmy Tarsier is a very rare and specialized primate, and he is an ancient predecessor to humans. 

For 85 years, the Pygmy Tarsier was thought to be extinct. Then in 2008 a small group was found in Indonesia. They are endemic (restricted to one place) to Central Sulawesi, Indonesia.

Found at elevations between 5900 and 7200 feet, Pygmy Tarsiers are most comfortable in the lower canopy of trees, but will also walk on the forest floor if need be. The trees at that elevation are not very tall, the leaves are small, and the diversity of tree species is limited. There is high humidity in these forests and a constant presence of mist. The Pygmy Tarsier is at home here.

Pygmy tarsiers are easily distinguished from other tarsiers by their small body size. Their average weight is approximately 1½ pounds. This weight is less than half the size of lowland tarsier species. There is some debate as to how many species of tarsier there are. Of all the species, the Pygmy Tarsier is the smallest. Although weight sometime distinguishes males from females, Pygmy Tarsiers do not express sexual dimorphism. That means that the males and females don't differ in size. 

The Pygmy Tarsier’s eyes are approximately the same size as its brain. They are nocturnal animals, and their large eyes help them to see well in the dark. This wide field of vision is accompanied by the ability to rotate their head nearly 360 degrees. They are either watching for enemies or their next meal to come along.

They have a long slender tail for balance, and long bony ‘fingers’ for clinging to branches. These adaptations enable them to move swiftly through the lower canopy. They can leap several feet from tree to tree, and their ‘jumping’ tends to be froglike.
Pygmy Tarsiers spend a lot of time scanning for insects on lower positions of tree trunks, and although they do not build nests, they tend to return to a particular tree to sleep. When awake, Pygmy Tarsiers will continually furl or crinkle their ears. This is another way to remain alert for bugs and enemies.

Only one group of Pygmy Tarsiers has been observed in the wild. Aggressive logging has resulted in the decrease in their numbers.  However, at this point, the IUCN* does not have enough data to tell us how bad the situation is. Suffice it to say, there is only a handful left in the wild.

I have embedded a video for you and the kids to enjoy. Kids, look closely at the video. You’ll get a chance to see how the Pygmy Tarsiers move and crinkle their ears, and how they eat an evening meal. Hope you visit the web site to view it. While you’re there, don’t be shy, leave a comment.


*IUCN- International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources 

If you would like to read more about the Pygmy Tarsier, here is a WEB site that has more detailed information; 

Food for thought people:  Experts believe that approximately, 27,000 species of wildlife disappear every year, and will never be seen again. It's important to learn and understand these animals. Our lives may depend on it. 

Thanks from me for visiting, and from the Pygmy Tarsier for thinking about him for a moment.

J.E. Rogers


  1. Loved it, Jeanne. They are so cute.


  2. Some of the tarsiers shown here are not pygmy tarsiers but are Philippines Tarsier. Pygmy Tarsiers have small eyes compared to Philippines Tarsiers. Philippines Tarsiers are mostly seen in Bohol, Philippines and Pygmy is in Sulawesi, Indonesia. Please at least use the correct images when creating posts about specific species.Here's a picture of a Philippine Tarsier and a Pygmy Tarsier together:
    As you can see PH tarsiers have bigger eyes compared to the Indonesian ones.