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Tarsier Facts

 

Not a monkey?

This endemic species has long been mistakenly referred to as a monkey - "the smallest monkey in the world". The truth is that, though tarsiers are in a taxonomic suborder by themselves among primates, they are more closely related to lemurs, lorises and bushbabies which are prosimians, as opposed to monkeys and apes which are anthropoids. What is being recognized as the smallest primate in the world is the pygmy mouse lemur found only in Madagascar.

The tarsier along with the lemur, tree shrew and loris, in fact belongs to the more primitive suborder Prosimii or prosimian. Tarsiers are probably the most advanced group of prosimians in relation to the higher primates.

  • Class: Mammalia
  • Order: Primates
  • Suborder : Prosimii/Haplorrhini
  • Infraorder: Tarsiiformes
  • Superfamily: Tarsioidea

Where do we find the Philippine Tarsier?

The Philippine Tarsier is found in the southern Philippine islands of Bohol, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao.

It is variously known to the natives as "mamag", "mago", "magau", "maomag", "malmag" and "magatilok-iok".

Is there only one kind of Philippine Tarsier?

Three very similar species have been described from several islands of the southern Philippines. It is possible that these three species belong to one species which have been developed into three races in the various islands. These are:

  1. T. philippensis - Samar and Leyte
  2. T. fraterculus -- Bohol
  3. T. carbonarius -- Mindanao The Philippine tarsier possesses various distinctive characteristics and habits that have made it an object of both scientific research and popular curiosity.

Are there other tarsiers around the world?

 

  1. Bornean tarsier (Tarsius bancanus) of Borneo and Sumatra, Spectral tarsier (Tarsius spectrum),
  2. lesser spectral tarsier (Tarsius pumilus),
  3. Dian's tarsier (Tarsius dianae) of Sulawesi, Indonesia
  4. Philippine Tarsier (Tarsius syrichta)

What is the status of the Philippine Tarsier?

The status of the Philippine tarsier is categorized as "lower risk, conservation dependent." This simply means that it is not yet categorized as vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered, but it could qualify within five years in one of those categories if present programs to protect the species are stopped.

One main reason for the critically declining population of the species is the destruction of their known forest habitats. Years of commercial logging, slash-and-burn agriculture and illegal logging activities have greatly reduced the forest covers of Bohol, Mindanao, Samar, and Leyte - areas in the country where tarsiers can be found. With the destruction of forests comes the inevitable loss of tarsier populations

 

How was the Philippine Tarsier discovered?

Tarsiers first became known to Western scientists through the description given to J. Petiver by the missionary J.G. camel of an animal said to have come from the Philippines (Hill, 1955). Petivel published Camel's description in 1705 and named the animal Cercopithecus luzonis minimus which was the basis for Linnaeus' (1758) Simia syrichta and eventually Tarsius syrichta. How old is the tarsier? Dated at around 45 million years, or early in the Eocene period, it is one of the oldest land species in continuous existence in the Philippines.