BBC Science Focus

NATURE’S WEIRDEST CREATURES...

THE TARSIER

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Never feed a tarsier after midnight. Hang on… that’s a gremlin. But it’s an easy mistake to make. With their oversized eyes, protruding ears and furry bodies, they’re dead ringers for the 1980s mischief makers.

With bodies rarely above 15cm long, tarsiers are one of the world’s smallest primates, found in the forests of Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippine­s. These largely solitary animals are the world’s only entirely carnivorou­s primate; consuming a diet of insects, reptiles and birds, which they hunt at night.

Their enormous eyes, which are densely lined with photorecep­tive cells called rods, are specialise­d for seeing in dim light. If humans had similarly proportion­ed peepers, they’d be the size of grapefruit­s. Tarsier eyes are so big that they can’t rotate in their sockets, so the animal has developed the ability to swivel its head almost 180° in either direction to look around – think Baby Yoda meets The Exorcist.

Their large ears can detect the high frequencie­s emitted by their prey and the structures also swivel, giving the tarsier excellent directiona­l hearing. Their fingers are tipped with swollen pads, which helps them grip trees, and their long, springy legs allow them to leap distances of up to five metres. If humans had similarly proportion­ed legs, we’d be able to leap over five double decker buses, but please don’t try this at home.

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