Philippine Tarsier – Carlito Syrichta
The Philippine tarsier (Carlito syrichta), known locally as mawmag in Cebuano/Visayans and mamag in Luzon, is a species of tarsier endemic to the Philippines. It is found in the southeastern part of the archipelago, particularly on the islands of Bohol, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao. It is a member of the approximately 45-million-year-old family Tarsiidae, whose name is derived from its elongated “tarsus” or ankle bone. Formerly a member of the genus Tarsius, it is now listed as the only member of the genus Carlito, a new genus named after the conservationist Carlito Pizarras.
It was introduced to Western biologists during the 18th century.
Anatomy and morphology
The Philippine tarsier measures only about 85 to 160 mm (3.35 to 6.30 in) in height, making it one of the smallest primates. The small size makes it difficult to spot. The mass for males is between 80–160 g (2.8–5.6 oz), usually lighter for females, somewhat heavier than other tarsiers such as the pygmy tarsier. The average adult is about the size of a human fist.
The female tarsier has multiple sets of breasts, but the only functional set is at the pectoralis. The other breasts are used as anchor points for the newborn tarsiers. The gestation period lasts 180 days, or 6 months, after which only one tarsier is born. The newborn tarsier is born with much fur and eyes open. Its body and head length is about 70 mm, and its tail is around 115 mm long.
Like all tarsiers, the Philippine tarsier’s eyes are fixed in its skull; they cannot turn in their sockets. Instead, a special adaptation in the neck allows its round head to be rotated 180°. Their eyes are disproportionately large, having the largest eye-to-body size ratio of all mammals. These huge eyes provide this nocturnal animal with excellent night vision. In bright light, the tarsier’s eyes can constrict until the pupil appears to be only a thin line. In darkness, the pupil can dilate and fill up almost the entire eye. The large membranous ears are mobile, appearing to be almost constantly moving, allowing the tarsier to hear any movement.
The Philippine tarsier has thin, rough fur which is colored gray to dark brown. The narrow tail, usually used for balance, is bald except for a tuft of hair at the end, and is about twice the body length. Its elongated “tarsus”, or ankle bone, which gives the tarsier its name, allows it to jump at least 3 m from tree to tree. Its long digits are tipped with rounded pads that allow C. syrichta to cling easily to trees and to grip almost any surface. The thumb is not truly opposable, but the first toe is. All of the digits have flattened nails, except for the second and third toes, which have sharp claws specialized for grooming.
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