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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Creature Feature: Philippine Tarsier.

Soo tired from all the moving going on. I need something to keep me awake. (Read: The entries for Sunday and Monday will VERY LIKELY be delayed due to my not having my own 'net access for a bit.)



...O.K., maybe not THAT awake.Whatever that is, I'll be seeing it in my nightmares. Then, because it IS a nightmare, I will wake up and only bring it up around dream interpreters.

The cute-ugly critter above is called a Philippine tarsier (Tarsius syrichta). Tarsiers are primates like monkeys, apes, and humans (yes, you're in this group, too), but have had all of the charm squeezed out of them - painfully, if that image is any indication. As the name implies, this strange primate is native to the Philippine islands. It eats any small living thing it can, from bugs to small birds. An adult tarsier can fit comfortably in a human hand. It would be cute if not for...

It was all fun and games until we got that one wet...
 

It is darn near impossible to find a photograph of one of these guys without thinking that the primate is in a very bad mood. If you manage to catch one with its huge eyes open, it looks almost as bad as the aye-aye, but there are no pop stars ugly enough to compare it to. If its eyes are closed, it looks like a very grumpy rat with thumbs. There is no way to win, here.

Its immobile eyes contribute to the strange blend of cute and ugly. Unlike other primates, the Philippine tarsier's gigantic eyes are locked in its skull. Those eyes are also the biggest, proportionately, of any mammal. To compensate, the tarsier has a modified neck that allows it to turn its head 180 degrees. Anime eyes suddenly look sane by comparison. This primate, my friends, is cute gone horribly wrong.

On the bright side, tarsiers represent a valuable evolutionary turning point between rodentlike primates (such as lemurs) and more monkey-like primates. 45 million years ago, tarsiers were on all seven continents.  Now they are restricted to Southeast Asia, much to the disappointment of primatologists. Almost everybody else can rest easy knowing that they will not be stalked by the large-eyed, nocturnal primates that probe the Uncanny Valley of cute.

 

Philippine tarsiers are, depending on whom you ask, either critically endangered or just vulnerable. Habitat loss and the pet trade (tarsiers do HORRIBLY in captivity) are the main reasons cited for the tarsier's decline. The people of the Philippines seem to love the little thing, touting it as an ancient, tiny monkey. Wait a minute - where have I heard something like that before?

KILL IT WITH FIRE!

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