Pygmy Tarsier

Pygmy Tarsier

Mountain tarsier, Lesser spectral tarsier

Tarsius pumilus
Population size
Life Span
12-20 yrs
40 km/h
57 g
95-105 mm

The Pygmy tarsier is Indonesia’s smallest primate species. It was though to have become extinct during the early 20th century. However, in 2000, one was accidentally killed by Indonesian scientists while trapping rats. The first of this species seen at large since the 1920s were discovered by researchers from Texas A&M University in Lore Lindu National Park on Mount Rore Katimbo in August 2008. This animal’s coat is longer and more curly than that of other tarsiers, perhaps as an adaptation to its cold damp environment. Its coat is very soft, ranging in color from buff to grayish brown or dark brown.


Pygmy tarsiers come from Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. They inhabit montane cloud forests in the central Sulawesi Mountains at altitudes from 1800 to 2200 m. They often inhabit the lower canopy among trunks of saplings, and the forest floor.

Pygmy Tarsier habitat map



Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

One group only of Pygmy tarsiers in the wild has been recorded: a group 3 adults: 1 female and 2 males, which for other tarsier species is unusual. Tarsiers are crepuscular or nocturnal and are mainly arboreal. During the day they spend most of their time amongst dense vegetation sleeping on vertical branches or perhaps in hollow trees. When disturbed during resting they may move up or down the branch facing towards the threat, their mouth open, and their teeth bared. When they are waking, they continuously crinkle or furl their ears. These animals spend much time looking for prey while low down on tree trunks. They do not make nests, but may return to sleep in the same tree. Unlike other tarsiers, the pygmy tarsier does not mark territorial boundaries by means of scent glands. As with all primates, tactile communication between Pygmy tarsier mothers and offspring, as well as between mates, is important.

Group name

Diet and Nutrition

Pygmy tarsiers are insectivores and primarily eat arthropods which have heavily keratinized exoskeletons. Often they eat small vertebrates as well.

Mating Habits

beginning ans end of the rainy season
178 days
1 infant
42 days

As they are infrequently seen and until lately were regarded as a subspecies of spectral tarsiers, not much is known about their mating system. Spectral tarsiers, a member of the same genus and their closest geographic neighbor, are typically monogamous (where one male mates exclusively with one female), though some social groups consistently demonstrate polygyny (one male mating with multiple females). This species has two breeding seasons, the first when the rainy season begins and the other at its end, about 6 months apart. Gestation on average is for 178 days, and there is a single birth. Infants are quite precocial, developing quickly, similar to other young in the genus. They can travel in groups when 23 days old and can hunt alone when 42 days old. Females stay with their parents until they are adults, while males disperse from the natal group while juveniles.


Population threats

The biggest threat to this species is habitat loss and degradation. Hunting and fires set by humans are also threats, and, together with logging, are probably going to continue in the future. Transmigration and local clearance are other threats.

Population number

The IUCN Red List and other sources do not provide the Pygmy tarsier total population size. Today this species’ numbers are decreasing and it is classified as Data Deficient (DD) on the IUCN Red List.

Ecological niche

As insectivores, Pygmy tarsiers have an important role in their environment as regards control of the insect community and having an impact on local food webs. They are also preyed upon by diurnal raptors.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Pygmy tarsiers drink by lapping water.
  • Pygmy tarsiers are able to leap several meters when going from tree to tree, with froglike leaps. On a level surface, pygmy tarsiers can leap as far as 1.2 to 1.7 and as much as 0.6 m high.
  • When hunting, a Pygmy tarsier waits silently for prey to come its way, instead of moving around.
  • The tarsier’s name is due to its tarsals — its powerful ankles bones.
  • If a predator attacks one of their number, all nearby tarsiers come together to fight the predator.
  • Tarsiers have a short muzzle and appear to have no neck, though they are able to turn their head around as far as 180 degrees.
  • Having a high-pitched voice (up to 91 kHz), tarsiers often sing. Sometimes a male and a female will perform a duet together.
  • A tarsier’s eyes are the most interesting part of them. Their eyeballs do not rotate. Their ears are interesting too: they can level them out and roll them up and unfold them again.
  • Tarsiers are unable to walk on the ground and are only able to hop.


1. Pygmy Tarsier Wikipedia article -
2. Pygmy Tarsier on The IUCN Red List site -

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