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Smallest Primate

Interesting Information About The World’s Smallest Primate

The Philippine tarsier, the world’s smallest primate is an endangered species native to the Philippines.  These peculiar looking animals are part of the Tarsiidae family, made up of members with a 45 million year old history.  While they are often thought to be part of the monkey family, they have very few similarities in reference to physical characteristics and behavior.

Unbelievable Eyes

The first thing that you will notice about the smallest primate is its large mesmerizing eyes.  Their bony eye sockets are literally larger than both their stomach and brain.  They are unable to turn their sockets but like an owl, tarsiers have the ability to rotate their heads a full 180 degrees to see behind them.  Not only are they the smallest primate, their eyes-to-body ratio is the largest of all mammals.  Of course, their eyes serve a good purpose giving them exceptional night vision which comes in handy since they are nocturnal.


Tarsiers have long finger-like claws, hairless ears and tails that are significantly longer than their bodies.  The tail is naked, looking similar to a rat while their bodies are covered in grayish-brown fur.  Their upper lip has no cleft but they are still able to make facial expressions, none of which are pleasing.

These tiny creatures have fierce teeth and they can leap 10 feet from tree to tree which is ideal for catching prey, or avoiding being preyed upon.


While the smallest primate may be less vocal than its other family members, it has very distinct communication sounds.  Its call is a piercing, loud, single note that you certainly cannot miss but when they are content, you will hear a sweet, soft, bird-like twill.  Then, when several of them gather together, you would swear you hear locusts by the identical way that they chirp.

Tarsiers also use non-verbal communication.  Females literally mark their males with a scent from a gland located around their mouth.  Additionally, like other animals, males mark their territory with urine.  They also engage in social grooming removing parasites and dead skin off of one another.


The world’s smallest primate has quite an interesting reproduction cycle.  Males take no part in raising the young but females are very nurturing and attentive.

Females have a higher primate type of placenta that you would not expect.  They also have multiple pairs of nipples but only one pair is functional, the others work as an anchoring point for the newborn.

The gestation period is around six months, giving birth to only one young at a time.  The infant is born furry, with its eyes open and after two days, they are able to move around.  The female uses no nest but carries her infant everywhere either on her belly or with her mouth, unless she is foraging, then the baby is hidden away.

After only two days, the advanced tarsier can climb and within another two days, it can jump.  They are breastfed for up to 60 days and then become sexually mature by the time that they are two years old.  Mating can take place all year round and have an average lifespan of 24 years.


Due to the rapidly growing population and constant destruction of the rainforests, the world’s smallest primate faces extinction.  There are estimated to be less than 1,000 left in the wild, even though they have been protected since 1991.  Illegal and indiscriminate logging for firewood has stolen their natural habitat, leaving them very little space left to reside.  The unabated hunting for pet trade has hurt their numbers as well.  While tarsiers can be kept as pets, their lifespan is more than cut in half when taken out of their natural habitat.