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Unhinged Science: Endangered Animals You Should Care About- Tarsiers

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.

My first-year physical anthropology professor introduced to me the weirdest little primates, and it only feels fair I introduce them to you.

           So, without further ado, meet the tarsier.

           Residing in Southeast Asia, tarsiers are named after the freakishly long bone in their ankle, called the tarsals. The tarsier is one of the smallest primates in existence, beaten out by the pigmy mouse lemur. They measure a measly 9-16cm, and have the largest eyes (a whopping 1.5cm in diameter) in comparison to the body size of all mammals (but does that really surprise you? Look at those suckers!). The large eyes and the huge visual cortex are most likely to make up for the fact that they don’t have the reflective layer in their eyes that most other nocturnal animals do. Each eye is bigger than their brain, and since their eyes are so big, they can’t move in their sockets. This led to their ability of being able to turn their heads 180°, Exorcist-style.

           That’s not where the bizarreness stops with these little fellas, oh no. It gets better -- or worse -- depending on your opinion thus far.

           Tarsiers, also known as a Disney Princesses’ worst nightmare, are the only entirely carnivorous primate, eating lizards, bugs, rodents, and even small birds.

Within one day of being born, these little buggers can climb a tree. To compare, I, a 19-year-old, still cannot. With the help of their tail and the frog-like pads on their fingers, they move through the forest by launching themselves from tree to tree, driven by their peculiarly long legs. And their third finger is about the same length as their upper arm.

These Baby-Yoda-meets-beat-up-teddy-bear looking creatures also have ears that are constantly in motion. They move independently from each other and can detect the high frequencies emitted by their prey.

Tarsiers usually live in small family groups or pairs and are social within their groupings. They are very territorial and will fight with neighboring groups that wander into their territory, like two siblings fighting over a spot on the couch.

These anxious little guys are a part of the order Primates, like humans, and they are an important piece of the puzzle that is human evolution. Currently, deforestation, hunting, and pesticides are the biggest causes of endangerment for tarsiers, and all the species of tarsiers are either threatened or endangered. One might think that keeping some in captivity may help to ensure safety for this species, but tarsiers don’t do well in captivity; when stressed, which is common in captivity, they bang their heads on their cages until they die. Because of this, habitat preservation is our best bet at protecting our distant cousins.

So, would I love to see these little guys and gals one day? Of course! Would I want to run into them while wandering the forest at night? Absolutely not.

Regardless of how their beady little eyes or freakishly long fingers make you feel, I think it's safe to say that they’re cool little primates, and we should do everything we can to ensure these freaks of nature can live prosperously together. But not too close together. 

Jaime Nemett

UWindsor '24

Jaime is an undergrad student in Forensics Science with a concentration in Biology at UWindsor. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, music, drawing, and rewatching her favourite TV shows and movies.
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