Some of the Worlds’ Smallest Primates Are Committing Suicide at Alarming Rates

Topics: Tarsier, Tarsiers, Primate Pages: 5 (2033 words) Published: May 5, 2013
Some of the worlds’ smallest primates are committing suicide at alarming rates. Are their deaths due to chemical imbalances in the Tarsiers brains, or are there other contributing factors. This paper will explore possible explanations on the Tarsiers’ declining population rates. Several reasons will be proposed to the causes leading to why the Tarsiers may become extinction. Several ways to help prevent the unnatural extinction of these primates will be discussed. Things such as, putting a stop to the loss of their natural habitat, being a food source for humans and the financial gain from exploiting the Tarsiers will be covered.

Prior to discussing the problems of the modern day Tarsiers, let’s look at where they came from. Tarsiers are primates (a group including lemurs, monkeys, apes and humans) found only in the islands of Southeast Asia. There is debate among scientists over how many types of Tarsier exist and whether there are more yet to be described. Most recently it was thought that there are 3 species groups (or genera): Western, Eastern and Philippine, with 18 species and subspecies in total belonging to these 3 groups. There are many differences between species, including eye size, ear size, behavior, vocalizations and distribution. Tarsiers are arboreal (tree living) and jump through the trees to catch their food, which is mainly insect based, although can include lizards, snakes and birds. Tarsiers are small with very large eyes, elongated hind legs and feet, a thin tail and long fingers. They are nocturnal (active at night) although some species may move around in the daytime. Some species live in family groups while others spend most of their time alone and mating behavior also varies between species. Tarsiers are born with fur and their eyes open and can climb trees within an hour of birth. Tarsiers are ‘haplorrhine’ primates - a group which also includes old world and new world monkeys and apes (including humans), but not lemurs, aye-aye or lorises. The haplorrhines cannot manufacture their own vitamin C, have a large range of facial expressions and their primary sense is vision. ‘Haplorrhine’ translates as “dry-nosed” or “simple-nosed” primate. The majority of Tarsier species are now endangered or threatened, and some are designated critically endangered. Threats include habitat destruction and fragmentation, hunting, agricultural pollutants and human disturbance. Tarsiers are very shy animals that prefer to stay away from human contact. Tarsiers do not live well in captivity – they have specific feeding requirements which are difficult to meet and rarely successfully breed. Wild Tarsiers which are caught and kept in captivity only show around a 50% rate of survival and in many cases they die quickly of overstress by committing “suicide”. Earlier in their evolutionary history Tarsiers would have been found in many parts of the world but are now confined to the islands of Southeast Asia. Tarsiers are found west to east from south-western Sumatra to the island of Mindanao and north to south from the island of Samar to the island of Selayar, a range of over 2,000 km in each direction. No Tarsiers are found on mainland Asia in the present age, although fossils have been found to show they were previously present. As their names suggest the Western, Eastern and Philippine Tarsiers are restricted to these particular regions. ‘Western’ refers to Borneo, Sumatra, Bangka, Belitung, Karimata and small surrounding islands and ‘Eastern’ refers to Sulawesi and the surrounding islands. Earlier in their evolutionary history Tarsiers would have been found in many parts of the world but are now confined to the islands of Southeast Asia. Tarsiers are found west to east from south-western Sumatra to the island of Mindanao and north to south from the island of Samar to the island of Selayar, a range of over 2,000 km in each direction. No Tarsiers are found on mainland Asia in the present age, although fossils have been...
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