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What Are the Different Types of Tarsier?

By H. Lo
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Tarsiers are small, nocturnal primates that were once grouped alongside lemurs and other related animals. While not much is known about tarsiers, as research progresses, science becomes more knowledgeable about these mysterious primates. Still, a debate exists over the taxonomy of tarsiers and as such, different sources might propose different classifications of species; one might say that there are eight species of tarsiers. This includes Dian’s tarsier, the Lariang tarsier and the Peleng tarsier. The Philippine tarsier, pygmy tarsier and Sangihe tarsier are other species, as well as the Spectral tarsier and the Western tarsier.

In general, tarsiers are found in Southeast Asian islands. Specifically, Dian’s tarsiers and Lariang tarsiers live in lowland rainforests in Indonesia, on the island of Sulawesi; pygmy tarsiers also live in Sulawesi, but in the upper rainforests in the mountains. Peleng tarsiers live on Peleng Island, and Philippine tarsiers are found in a variety of habitats in the Philippines. Sangihe tarsiers are found on Great Sangihe Island, and Spectral tarsiers live on various islands, including Sulawesi, Great Sangihe, and Peleng. Western tarsiers are found on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra in a variety of habitats, such as dense bamboos, jungles and rainforests.

More specific knowledge about different types of tarsiers is limited due to them being hard to study. For example, they are nocturnal and they do not react well to being kept in captivity. In addition, it can be difficult to differentiate between separate species of tarsiers based upon looks alone because they all bear similarities. There are some differences and distinguishing features on some species, though.

In general, Dian’s tarsiers are gray-buff in color, with white hair over the upper lip and white hair at the center of the lower lip. Their tails are bare except with some hair at the end. Lariang tarsiers are dark gray-buff in color, with black stripes around the nose and off-white stripes around the lips. They also have black rims around the eyes and a dark tail with a black tip. Peleng tarsiers are redder in color than some of the other species, with cream-colored tips on the hairs found on their thighs.

Philippine tarsiers are a variety of colors, from brown-gray to red-brown. Pygmy tarsiers are probably the easiest to distinguish from the other tarsiers simply for their small body size. They range in color and can be gray or brown-red, with a gray underbelly; their tails are hairy and dark-brown or black in color. Sangihe tarsiers have hair on the ankle as well as at the end of their tails. Spectral tarsiers are gray to gray-buff in color and have scaly tails with bushy tufts at the ends, and lastly, Western tarsiers vary in color and have a moderate amount of hair on their tails.

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