Never feed a tarsier after midnight. Hang on… that’s a gremlin. But it’s an easy mistake to make. With their oversized eyes, protruding ears and furry bodies, they’re dead ringers for the 1980s mischief makers.


With bodies rarely above 15cm long, tarsiers are one of the world’s smallest primates, found in the forests of Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines. These largely solitary animals are the world’s only entirely carnivorous primate; consuming a diet of insects, reptiles and birds, which they hunt at night.

Their enormous eyes, which are densely lined with photoreceptive cells called rods, are specialised for seeing in dim light. If humans had similarly proportioned peepers, they’d be the size of grapefruits.

Tarsier eyes are so big that they can’t rotate in their sockets, so the animal has developed the ability to swivel its head almost 180° in either direction to look around – think Baby Yoda meets The Exorcist.

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Their large ears can detect the high frequencies emitted by their prey and the structures also swivel, giving the tarsier excellent directional hearing. Their fingers are tipped with swollen pads, which helps them grip trees, and their long, springy legs allow them to leap distances of up to five metres.

If humans had similarly proportioned legs, we’d be able to leap over five double decker buses, but please don’t try this at home.

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Helen Pilcher
Helen PilcherScience writer, presenter and performer.

Helen Pilcher is a tea-drinking, biscuit-nibbling science and comedy writer, with a PhD in cell biology.