Welcome to You Ask Andy

David Cass, age 13, of Newton, Iowa,

What is a tarsier?

If you saw him at the zoos you might mistake him for a baby monkey making like a yo‑yo. For when he is active, this little fellow is as bouncy as a rubber ball. He hops in great leaps on the ground and he uses the same bouncy springs to dart among the trees. When fully grown, the tarsier is only six inches long plus a ratty eight inch tail tipped with a tufted fur.

The tarsier wears a thick soft coat of brownish fur. His face is wide and when his mouth is closed he has a froglike smile. He has a cute little pug nose and his ears are round and bare, rather like the ears of a bat. But the tarsier's most remarkable feature is his eyes. In proportion to his little face they are huge. They are also quite round$ like the eyes of an owl, and set so closely together that the bouncy little fellow seems to be wearing goggles.

These remarkable eyes are designed for night .vision. During daylight, the dark pupils contract to mere slits, like the pupils in the eyes of a cat. At such times, the tarsier’s eyes are gold or golden brown. As darkness descends, the pupils expand to catch the slightest glimmer of light. At such times the huge eyes are almost entirely black.

It is too bad that we cannot see the tarsier in his natural surroundings, but he is not a native of the New World. In fact, he does not choose to live on any of the large land masses. He is an island dweller axed he prefers the lush islands that lie within the tropics, The tarsier and his kin are found from Sumatra to the Philippines, the Indonesian islands that loop from the Malay Peninsula around the South China Sea. There, during the tropic night, he bounces among the jungle boughs and leaps over the jungle floor. During the tropic days he curls up and dozes in the jungle foliage.

Watching him hop through the trees you would wonder why the furry little fellow does not fall and break his neck. However, he is quite safe because he has round suction pads on the tips of his fingers and toes. Wherever he lands, he clings. The tarsier has to be a nimble fellow in order to make a living. His favorite food is insets and the little hunter must be very spry to catch these acrobats as they hop, scuttle and flit through the jungle. Sometimes he descends to the jungle floor in search of lizards and small snakes. Here he can hop along in four foot leaps.

The tiny tarsier belongs to the great order of Primates, the most advanced of all the animals. However he is not a true monkey, nor is he one of the less advanced lemurs. The tarsier family is rated somewhere between the monkey family and the lemur family. His f an ily name is Tarsiidae, a word coined from tarsus which means the ankle bone. A very long ankle bone is one of the features of the tarsier. The gogle‑eyed little ball of fluff makes use of these long ankle bones in his bouncy springs and leaps.

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