Tarsier - Encyclopedia




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TARSIER, the Anglicized form of the scientific name of a small and aberrant lemur-like animal, Tarsius spectrum, inhabiting the Malay Peninsula and islands, and typifying a family. The name tarsier refers to the great elongation of two of the bones of the tarsus, or ankle, and spectrum to the huge goggle-like eyes and attenuated form which constitute two of the most distinctive features of this weird little creature. In organization the tarsier departs markedly from other lemurs as regards several particulars, and thereby approximates to monkeys and apes. Rather smaller than a squirrel, with dusky brown fur, the tarsier has immense eyes, large ears, a long thin tail, tufted at the end, a greatly elongated tarsal portion of the foot, and disk-like adhesive surfaces on the fingers, which doubtless assist the animal in maintaining its position on the boughs. Four species of the genus are now recognized, whose range includes the Malay Peninsula, Java, Sumatra, Borneo, Celebes and some of the Philippines. The tarsier feeds chiefly on insects and lizards, sleeps during the day, but is tolerably active at night, moving chiefly by jumping from place to place; an action for which the structure of its hind-legs seems particularly well adapted. It is rare, not more than two being generally found together, and only brings forth one young at a time. (See PRIMATES.) (R. L.*)

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